Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This past week as the Winter Olympics commenced, I enjoyed the opening ceremonies with the many dove symbols interwoven into the proceedings, punctuated by North Korea and South Korea marching together. The white dove is the traditional symbol of peace and even with all the intense athletic rivalries, the Olympics has become a global symbol of one world. It reminded me that leaders particularly servant leaders are peacemakers by nature. Certainly, leaders need to agitate the environment to a degree to keep positive change going and avoid complacency. But change for change’s sake is exhaustive and will eventually degrade a team’s efficiency.
Author Ian Vickers in a May 2010 blog “If You Are a Leader, Are You a Peacemaker?” argues: “People want to spend time with good leaders because good leaders – through their leadership – create peace.” This is harder to do than it seems, as our polarized world with technological tools creating so much distraction adds to the day to day drama and more conflict than peace. First, leaders begin to sow seeds of peace by creating a shared vision. For servant leaders, vision is important but developing a shared vision where followers contribute and buy in to the vision is essential.
Servant leaders also set the tone of day to day operations. Humor, smiles, and being light hearted when called for also creates conditions that diffuse tension. Leaders who ensure followers take time off and give comp time after busy times also contribute to diffusing office tensions which creates longer lasting peaceful and healing conditions.
Vickers points out four other critical characteristics for peacemakers. Peacemakers look for common ground and shy followers away from selfish ambitions. Peacemakers listen and ensure followers are understood. They bring clarity to the situation and ensure miscommunications do not foster conflict. Finally, Vickers emphasizes that leaders build trust at every turn. When conflict builds, leaders who are trusted can convince followers to deescalate. Vickers states: “We all know that conflict cannot be completely avoided. Leaders as peacemakers, however, can diminish conflict and reduce its long-term effects. A good leader creates an environment of peace that compels people to walk in that direction.”
Peacemakers harmonize that it is not about them. They grow a shared vision, find common ground and set a tone where synergy is the goal, not disunity. Peacemakers never generate the most attention but followers always gravitate toward them because leaders of conflict make headlines. The energy of the headline, however, does not pay out in long-term organizational progress. Wise leaders understand this. Leaders are peacemakers.
The greatest honor history can bestow is that of peacemaker. ~ Richard M. Nixon