Leaders must always take the high road when others, intentionally or unintentionally, wrong them. It’s what First Lady Michelle Obama meant when she said, “When they go low, we go high.”
Your team leaders may have heard a related saying that illustrates the reverse of this principle: If you’re slinging mud, you’re losing ground.
When offended by another person in the workplace, leaders always have a choice in how to respond.
Most leaders know deep down it’s better take the high road—but what other options do we have when dealing with others?
Your leaders can choose from three options when responding to mud-slinging:
- Low road—treat others worse.
- Middle road—treat others the same.
- High road—treat others better.
The low road damages relationships and alienates others. They may feel that some sort of cosmic justice is being served, but only at the cost of community, relationship, trust, and influence.
The middle road may not drive people away, but it won’t attract them either. It is reactive rather than proactive and allows others to set the agenda.
The high road helps to create positive relationships and attracts others to them; it sets a positive agenda with others that even negative people find difficult to undermine.
As newscaster David Brinkley wisely said, “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.”
What It Takes to be a High-Roader
Feel free to share with your leaders and managers these eight practical steps for applying The High Road Principle to their teams:
- Recognize your own need for grace and extend it to others
- Set higher standards for yourself than others would
- Make excellence your goal—always
- Care more than others think you should
- Risk more than others think is safe
- Dream more than others think is practical
- Expect more than others think is possible
- Work more than others think is necessary
General Lee had the chance to handle personal attacks in his own “workplace” the same way as his attacker. Everyone expected him to give a negative report in return for jealous slander.
By taking the high road, Lee established himself to those he led—and probably to General Whiting as well—as a leader of integrity, confidence, and trustworthiness.
When leaders take the high road, they can choose their response to conflict and accelerate their team’s growth and productivity dramatically.