Saturday, September 7, 2013

Leaders must foster accountability, but they also have to forgive errors, mistakes and wrongs of followers and opponents

Rosabeth Moss Kanter expressed the important idea in a HBR blog post.

Instead of settling scores,  leaders have to make gestures of reconciliation that heal wounds and involve all to get on with business. This is essential for turnarounds or to prevent mergers from turning into rebellions against acquirers who act like conquering armies. Forgiveness can sometimes mean investing in groups that have done something negative — a counterintuitive but often very effective strategy.

"Revenge is not justice," says General Douglas MacArthur, as played by Tommy Lee Jones in Emperor, an engrossing new feature film about the surrender of the Japanese to American troops at the end of World War II.

Emperor - Trailer

 The question requiring leadership judgment is whether to hang Japan's Emperor Hirohito for war crimes. Despite pressure from Washington and his fellow officers  General MacArthur senses that Japan reveres its emperor and refuses to give in. He instead uses his power for reconciliation and the emperor remains in place, though stripped of his divinity.  As we know from history, the rebuilding of war-torn Japan was an economic and social triumph.

If revenge is not justice, it is not strategy either.

Anger and blame are unproductive emotions that tie up energy in destroying rather than creating. People who want to save a marriage, for example, must let go of the desire to hurt a partner the way they think the partner has hurt them and instead make a gesture of reconciliation.

Those whose main motivation is to settle scores and get payback — to obstruct rather than construct — are on the wrong side of history. Their legacy is not  magnificent building, but rubble. Taking revenge can destroy countries, companies, and relationships. Forgiveness can rebuild them.


Prof Kanter explain this point also in a video presentation - Six Key to Leading Positive Change



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