The Idea: This week the state of South Carolina chose to take down the Confederate flag. Some saw the flag as a symbol of the pride of the south, while most viewed it as a symbol of racism and hatred. Whatever your view, the flag was divisive because it was so symbolic. This raises the question: what symbols in our businesses could be misinterpreted? Do any of your leadership symbols cause division without you knowing it?
When the now infamous picture of Dylann Roof was posted on primetime news cycles, after the shocking Charlestown massacre, no one could’ve guessed that it would spark a national conversation about the Confederate flag. It was a marginal component of the tragedy – a few pixels in one picture – but it meant so much more. The flag was a symbol, representing an idea much bigger than a pattern on fabric.
Each of us has our own symbols (or flags) we bring into the workplace. These symbols represent what we value and possess great influence. Symbols such as how we celebrate success, who we promote, our meeting protocols, and how we process bad news all have meaning poured into them. How we respond to the little things, the symbolic moments, clearly communicates your values and what you hold dear.
What flags in your own life need to be taken down and replaced with another symbol, a healthier symbol that better communicates who you are and what you value?
In other words, have your leadership symbols created unnecessary division among your team? Are you even aware of the symbols you have created that may cause unnecessary division and confusion?
Next time you think a symbol in your life is divisive consider doing two things:
- Instead of relying solely on the symbol, communicate why these symbols are important to you and what they represent.
- Ask for honest feedback on whether the symbols that you embrace actually resonate and inspire others. Dig into what other people think and feel about the symbols you present to the world.
Symbols speak very loudly.
What do the flags you wave symbolize and how do they affect others?