Positive Defiance

Being Movember, I was inspired to get my two-yearly health check. The doctor, beginning with small talk, asked what I did. I told him I worked in leadership development. At this point he placed his fingertips together, rocked back in his chair, and proceeded to tell me that, “By and large New Zealand leadership and management is very poor and leaves a great deal to be desired”.

Given the examination I was about to get, I did something perhaps a little foolish. I challenged him. “No”, I said, “I don’t think that’s true”. He looked surprised, but I went on. “Every morning millions of us go to work and get paid, we get educated, we access health care, our lights work and rubbish gets collected, and we have virtually no corruption. That’s no accident. There is a lot of leadership and management to make that happen. New Zealand’s not perfect, but it works.”

He looked surprised, expecting that I would support his assertion and fuel it with juicy anecdotes. However, I was in his domain and he quickly wrestled back control. “Interesting”, he said, “Now pop your gear off, jump up, and let’s have a look.”

I do get sick off negativity and cynicism and a national obsession of focussing on what isn’t working. Every year, I work with hundreds of people and I have to say that, almost without exception, they want to do a great job and make a difference. Yes, of course you occasionally get someone who you think is a bit of a wally, but they are the exception, not the rule.

So as we near the end of the year I reckon it is time to focus on what is good and what is working, and not submit to moaners and complainers. By buying into their negativity, or just by saying nothing, we are complicit in fuelling this dynamic. Yes, New Zealand works better for some than others, and we must continue to work at making it work better for everyone. However, without positive defiance the sheer volume of negativity can be overwhelming. I suspect it’s a major contributor to our alarming rates of anxiety and depression.

So, next time someone is ranting and venting about all that is wrong in the world, consider positive defiance – but make sure you pick the right time and place…