"And so I found that my ability to sit back and watch and learn gave me the capacity to draw people together and ultimately come up with some solutions."
"Don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes" is as dog-eared a maxim as they come, but like all cliches it endures because it's true. Bridging the communication gap between people is also one of the greatest challenges we ever face. This is because understanding others is not intuitive; we all view the world through experiential lenses that are shaped by our environments, families, our communities, the language(s) we speak and the ups and downs of our individual lives. As this is an organic process, we're rarely aware of how and why we hold the views that we do. We are therefore inclined to assume our worldview is simply the way the world is, misinterpreting the fishbowl for the ocean.
A quick example - the grammatical gender a language ascribes to a noun literally changes how the speaker views that object. Heck, there are tons of words and concepts in world languages that simply can't be translated directly into others. Then you get into experience; it's no wonder Mitt Romney simply couldn't understand the ground-level realities of the 47% and assumed they were playing the victim card. He has never had to face the uphill adversity that so many average Americans live with day-to-day.
One of the key traits of strong leaders is the ability to communicate, which has to flow in multiple directions. Too often we confuse communication with the notion of messaging, which only flows one way (Stephen Harper, for instance, is a master at messaging but dismal at communication). Real communication is like diplomacy or mediation; it takes time to understand the players from their own viewpoint, establishes common vocabulary and then builds a common direction from there. Leaders are meant to serve as the stone in the soup, being the thing that challenges people to find common ground and build a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts.
As such, the best leaders live and breathe holistic communication - walking with others, bringing people together, empowering the people to collectively create a shared vision of the future. Communication is a lot like art that way - a pain-staking, challenging process requiring patience, a willingness to listen and a keen eye to recognize opportunity not for oneself, but for the people one wishes to communicate with.
Which is why I'm so excited by this:
All of the political parties at every level have fallen into the trap of concentrating too much power in person and the office of the Leader. Despite the best of intentions, the over-centralizing of power makes decision making without genuine consultation increasingly convenient. As a result, fewer and fewer voices are heard. Inevitably mistakes are made and people and groups are alienated. We are hardly the worst offenders but that is beside the point. This style may work for the other parties but it is ill suited for the Ontario Liberal Party whose calling card is driving consensus and solving problems, let alone good governance of a large, complex province like Ontario.
It's time "forward together" leaves nobody behind.