Leadership Strategies and the “What Problem” Crowd
Denial, as the joke goes, is more than a river in Egypt. It is something we all do on occasion when what confronts us is too hard to fathom. So, we say, “No, this isn’t happening”. Has to be a dream…mistake….joke…. And then, we pull ourselves up and do what we have to do, most of the time, some of the time.
Except deniers! They refuse to heed warnings and will do what they have always done the way they have always done it. Ever wonder why? Ever hear the expression “Better safe than sorry”? That is the mantra for the denier. Usually there was a trauma that happened in the family that went underground, too painful to discuss and the youngster learned that the best way to handle anxiety, stress, and pain is simply to ignore it, pretend it away.
Bob Woodward aptly titled his book “State of Denial” about the inner workings of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Reading the book is unsettling when you realize how unprepared the leadership of our country was, and continued to be, month after month after month.
I did some research on George W looking for clues concerning his personal state of denial, the pattern that seems to be his strongest one. Several facts began to coalesce. When George was a child his sister Robin contracted leukemia. Barbara Bush spent most of her time at Slone Kettering in Manhattan with the little girl. George was back at the ranch with his caretakers.
Barbara, it was stated, would not permit any signs of sadness around Robin and when George Sr. would visit the hospital he would have to leave the room if he showed signs of his internal upset. Thus, pain and discomfort were swept under the rug.
Fear, anger, hurt, the painful and ugly side of life is locked into deep, steel clad vaults. Death, war, betrayal, rejection cannot surface. Deniers simply want to look at the positive and see even the days of Katrina as sunny.
Leadership strategies with deniers take a lot of hard work and armfuls of determination. It takes repetition and repetition laced with kindness to break through the barriers a denier has built up to keep the pain away.
Deniers do best if they are first offered more abstract possibilities before they will ever attempt to consider their personal discomfort. I have found that films about other people and how they have handled adversity can be the way to get a denier to look internally. Just know this is a long, difficult process.