By Karen Amos

I’ve been reading the news about the recent death of Senator John McCain, as I guess many of you have.  I’ll readily


admit that I know relatively little about him, but these last few days I’ve been struck by the polarisation of views from people, whom I suspect know no more than I do.

I probably wouldn’t agree with all of Senator McCain’s politics, but I was moved by his conduct as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.  How he refused to be freed ‘out of turn’ – an offer given to him due to his privileged background – which resulted in his torture and incarceration for 6 years.  It was clear this conduct gave many people something to aspire to.  This does however, contrast with his reputed ‘hot-headedness’ when dealing with others.

The point of this post however, is to highlight the tendency of many people nowadays, to be polarised in their views.  Perhaps this is perpetuated and encouraged by social media, but it appears that everyone MUST have an opinion and MUST choose whether any individual is a ‘demon’ or an ‘angel’, or risk incurring the wrath of those who have nailed their colours to a certain mast.

Thinking rationally, most of us know this isn’t true.  None of us are ‘angels’, we all make mistakes and sometimes do things we are even ashamed of.

Bill George advocated developing our own sense of self-awareness and the ability to genuinely consider other viewpoints if we were to be effective and authentic leaders.  Daniel Goleman also cites the need for ‘self-regulation’, which includes being comfortable with ambiguity and a willingness to ‘see the bigger picture’ and change your viewpoint where appropriate.

This will always be a work in progress, but with reflection, we can all become a better version of ourselves.  Perhaps enough to pause, reflect and admit, ‘This is a really complex situation with many facets and I don’t have a clear opinion on this.’  Perhaps the world would be a better place if we all did this more?

For more reading check out:

Bill George. (2004). Authentic Leadership – Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value.  Wiley & Sons.

Daniel Goleman. (1996). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury.

Karen Amos is the owner of BrightBird Coaching & Training.  She is a qualified Executive and Professional Development coach and trainer.

If you’d like to know more about BrightBird’s professional development services and how we can help you and your business, school or organisation, please check out our website at, or email [email protected]