A Paradox in Vision


Marguerite Rose Chabau, Ph.D.

©dwij 2001

Article #1 in our series on Ethics
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Marguerite Rose Chabau, Ph.D., is a coach and consultant in leadership development. She works with business and community leaders in developing skills for the leaders of tomorrow. Marguerite also gives keynote talks on topics such as: The Vision of Leadership; Leading through Values; and The Art of Leadership. For information on her presentations and workshops eMail:


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he Vision of Leadership is Changing Dramatically!

As our insights of who a leader is and how a leader acts transform us and our experiences, we are left standing with one foot in our past perceptions and habits and the other in our perspicacity and ideals. Particularly, as Americans focus on choosing their next leader, balancing between the past and the future is even more challenging.

An oxymoron is defined as a contradiction; one concept or idea is the opposite of another. An oxymoron supports either/or thinking. Either the concept of statesman is the ideal to pursue, thus making the politician and politics something to avoid, or if unavoidable, then certainly something less than the best. Whatever the view, quantifying measurement is involved. This way of thinking tends to be adversarial in nature and to create antagonistic behaviors.

A paradox is defined as a concept or idea that may seem initially incredible; yet upon investigation, often proves well-founded or true. A paradox can support what I refer to as inclusive thinking. In describing the vision of leadership, the case is put forth that both concepts - statesperson and politician - hold equal value. An individual can be both. Being a politician does not automatically mean engaging in manipulative or scheming behavior. Being a statesperson does not inherently mean being a saint. Qualifying measurement is involved in inclusivity. This way of thinking tends to be conciliatory in nature and to create collaborative, community-building behaviors.

Either/or thinking is valuable. We all must choose, for example, between eating one thing or another, wearing this or that, going here or there. Our doings are a result of our choosings. What is essential to remember if we are to fulfill our vision of leadership, to move both feet into the future and retain our balance, is that there is an over-arching perception that includes oxymorons, contradictions. In a peaceful world community, the ideal of there being a right way that works for all, of inclusivity, supplants "our way is right policy" doing.

All humans have a conscience; yet, we know that all humans use, abuse and misuse this gift in extraordinarily diverse ways. In a democratic society, we presume a theoretical freedom - the capacity for and acceptance of individual opinions and decisions and the inherent right of equality. In realizing this freedom, tension between the theory, the concept, the vision and the reality of life arises. Stress and strain are challenges inherent in our attempts to reconcile these differences, these contradictions, which at times are small and at other times enormous.

Politics is the interplay of these competing interests. Aristotle believed that the diversity of ideas inherent in a corporate body or a community is a constructive force in the creation of a social order, of a governing system. Nothing has changed about that precept; if anything, due to the theories of quantum physics, we are deepening our understanding regarding the essential nature of, and balance between, differentiation and communion. Politics is a means to resolve the tension between the present and the future. Politics, the implementation of individual motives, is intrinsic in all human systems; in this regard, all humans are politicians.

Individual interests, conflict and power are not in themselves either good or bad; they are universal characteristics of being alive, of being members of a community. The challenge, the gap, lies not in the what, but in the how. The oxymoron, the contradiction between the image of a statesperson and the politician lies in the choices of being, the decisions to act in one way or the other; no one makes someone else choose to scheme and maneuver as a means to an end. Our ethics, or the principles of human duty, the guiding rules of conscience and conduct, underlie the choices that each of us humans, us statespersons/politicians, makes.

Questions automatically arise when viewing the oxymoron as a gift, rather than a curse. There are penultimate questions: The questions are about honor; the questions are about discerning the honorable way to create order out of diversity; the questions are about the degree of commitment to the survival of the whole and the degree of acceptance of reciprocal dependence; the questions are about competition and cooperation; the questions are about reconciling differences, utilizing conflict as a tool rather than a weapon, growing power into empowerment.

The questions, ultimately, are about leadership in a democracy:

What is your/our vision? What are the values that will create that vision? What are the characteristics that will bring that vision into action? Through these answers, we bring ourselves into balance and, more importantly, maintain our balance as we embrace the shift that develops the leaders of tomorrow.

Marguerite Rose Chabau, Ph.D.

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Editors note:

Our Ethics segment of the Forum is an effort to hear from many in our communities about the quality of performance and decorum expected from those in positions of leadership; we embrace the fact that each of us is a leader. This is a complex and paradoxical subject which is simply about human interrelationship and intentioning. We'll be highlighting the views and dreams of many folks, while honoring a broad range of perspectives and insights on this journey. Thank you, Marguerite, for this fine opening essay.

© dwij 2000
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