Certainly the word
“peace” evokes good feelings. It’s a concept everyone would favor, right? Logic tells us that anyone with common sense would say, “I am for peace,” and every halfwit would say, “I am against peace.”
When you hear the word “peace
,” what do you think? Does it conjure up ideas of true serenity—a spa, pleasant aromas, a babbling brook, gentle breezes and an occasional massage? When we think “peaceful,” we usually think “quiet” and “relaxing.”
Other images swirl quickly to the surface as well. On a broader scale, “peace” means world leaders shaking hands, signing agreements, ending conflicts and fulfilling resolutions. It’s the type of peace often ushered in by the United Nations and captured on the nightly news.
Regardless of the image we might have regarding peace, we all generally celebrate when it comes, because peace is good.
As a leader, are you a peacemaker? Good leadership brings peace. I realize many will say, “Leadership is more about conflict—it’s the nature of leadership.” Is it? Does leadership bring with it conflict? Or does conflict exist and good leadership brings peace? People want to spend time with good leaders because good leaders—through their leadership—create peace.
Anyone who is a parent, myself included, has seen a few conflicts. Children tend to have this uncanny ability to bring disagreements and selfish ambitions to the forefront. I didn’t teach my kids to produce conflict—they did that all on their own. My job as a parent is to help my kids develop skills that cultivate peace. My children, like a lot of children, will naturally gravitate toward being selfish, territorial and possessive. Plain and simple, they want their own way.
I first realized this truth when my children were very young and still in diapers. Put them in a room with another child with only one toy between them, and the conditions are soon perfect for conflict. One of the first words out of my children’s mouths is, “Mine!” Maybe the saying “we are kids at heart” is not always a good thing. As we grow into adulthood, we don’t instantly lose our selfish ambitions. The conflicts that used to show up on playgrounds soon begin to take their own form in workplaces, marriages and even between nations. A failure to identify this reality will only reinforce the wall of conflict.
Good leadership moves beyond selfish ambition to help resolve conflict and achieve peace. Good leaders recognize the dynamics needed for peace and are able to cultivate it. It’s tangible and it radiates in their presence. They bring peace with them when they enter a room and they take it with them when they leave the room. Good leadership pursues peace.
What then makes leaders effective peacemakers? They have these characteristics:
1. They understand the natural tendency toward selfish ambitions. A peacemaker sees the self-focus motives and isn’t hesitant to point them out. Such “pointing out” happens not in an accusatory way, but in a way that reveals the path to a peaceful solution.
2. They listen. Leaders go to great lengths to listen and to make sure people are understood. Listening doesn’t always mean agreeing with what’s being said. A leader knows that in most cases of conflict, a person is not always intense on being right; he or she just wants to be heard. Listening is crucial to leadership, and a leader relentlessly does it well. If you want to frustrate those you lead, don’t listen to them. Always correct them when they bring up an idea and shut them down when they are sharing something that is either inaccurate or incomplete. That is a quick way to lose any followers—and to lose any shot at cultivating peace.
3. They bring clarity to the situation. Most conflicts center on miscommunication. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the international scale whenever there are multiple languages and cultures involved. The diversity of perspectives and thoughts is great, but such diversity also means there is tremendous possibility for conflict. A person may say something at a meeting, and the listener may have “heard” the words but not understood their meaning in context. A peacemaker helps people process what is meant beyond what is simply stated.
4. They build trust. Trust is the foundation to achieving peace. The people you lead must trust you as a person. This is what I believe is a “sacred” relationship. Marriage is one type of relationship that most cultures consider sacred, because it’s a special relationship built on deep trust. If the trust is broken in the relationship, then the “sacredness” of the relationship is violated. As a result, there will be absences of peace and surges of conflict. When we look at building trust in other relationships, a certain level of sacredness also exists. A peacemaker cultivates ways for such relationships to be valued. Where there is trust, the potential for peace is greatest.
We all know that conflict cannot be completely avoided. Leaders as peacemakers, however, can diminish conflict and reduce its long-term effects. A good leader creates an environment of peace that compels people to walk in that direction.