Engaging with Emerging Leaders at University of Chicago
This week, I was on the road and had the chance to reflect on our nation’s emerging leaders.
First, the goal of my facilitation work is to elevate the collective conversation - to create smarter conversations among national leaders. We exist to help leaders grasp the range of thinking on issues by developing the maturity to listen deeply to opinions and approaches much different than your own.
Second, it is convenient and a little simple to talk about finding common ground—even if that ground isn’t always easy to find or reach. For CtK and our leaders, it's not about finding common ground. Common ground is a negotiating tactic to influence people to your point of view. That's not what we're doing. This work is about enriching our collective understanding of the ground we're all standing on.
The range of leaders I worked with this week was geographically, ethnically, racially, religiously, politically, socioeconomically, and chronologically diverse. These smart, insightful, engaged students have an opportunity to become Loyal Antagonists as they approach their nascent leadership roles.
I said to each and every one of them, “You know as well as I do that America is stuck in a strange place where we seem to have lost the ability to work out our basic disagreements and tackle our biggest problems. The problems that, by definition, require some measure of bipartisan cooperation.” I applauded them for their idealism, their optimism, for being the best kind of contrarians.
Every day, as if we needed a reminder, experts on both sides keep telling us that the very idea of cross-party collaboration is dead, that it’s a relic of a bygone era, that voters don’t actually want it from their leaders…but we do. And our leaders do. We are all hungry for possibility, for transformation, for hope.
My biggest takeaways?
That our young leaders are smart, insightful, engaged, and hopeful for the future. That good people have not been entirely put off from public service. That transformational leadership is possible and our emerging leaders are up to the task.