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September 21st: International Day of Peace – what’s this to do with leadership?

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Today is the UN International Day of Peace. This feels like a big topic. It raises so many issues. Like –

  • How can one person like me have a positive impact when so many people are at war?
  • What can we do about the impacts on women and children as targets in conflict?
  • What do we mean by ‘peace’ in the workplace?

And finally – what’s this got to do with leadership?

Where to start?

I’m lucky to have the vote. But I don’t think I have much say on starting or ending wars. I personally feel like I can have more impact back home on people affected by conflict. So this is my starting place.

One impact of conflict on society is people returning from military situations. They make up between 3 and 10% of the prison population (UK figures).

Because people find it hard to transition back to family life; back to society.

  • They start fights in reaction to relatively ‘trivial’ emotional triggers.
  • They find it hard to work in a civilian population.
  • Senior male officers, used to giving orders, find it harder to work with women
  • Rejected lovers may no longer be wanted by their partners and parted from their children.

Each of these conflict situations has the potential to impact on your workplace. Whether it’s a perpetrator, or a family member affected by conflict, it will have an impact on your organisation.

Peace is about society and peace is personal.

I know my own father had his PTSD experiences 60 years ago. I want it to be different for today’s service men and women.  As a society, we know that both women and men are affected by these situations.  In the UK on average, 35 assaults happen before the police are called. (Jaffe 1982)

People are trying to keep their lives together. And keep it hidden from their colleagues. Whether out of shame from what they’re doing to others; or what’s being done to them.

People need peace, dignity and prosperity

Professionals in this field agree upon the notion that self-awareness of how we feel is a fundamental starting point. And that it’s no good just talking about peace.

We need to feel peace. Or, as one global peace activist says:

“It’s not the world that needs peace; it is people. When people are at peace, the world will be at peace.”

(Prem Rawat)

This blog is dedicated to the Prem Rawat Foundation. An organisation committed to peace education and other practical actions to improve peoples’ peace, dignity and prosperity. Regardless of social status – helping perpetrators and victims alike find, and live in, peace.

I feel like I can be a part of that end of the solution.  The personal, individual side of peace

Growing emotional intelligence: one peaceful workplace solution

The notion of ‘not bringing your emotions to work’ has prevailed for too long. Our home and work lives are impacted each by the other. And one key solution for reducing conflict is greater emotional intelligence.

Which means we do need to get feelings of conflict out in the open. But not that we need to emote over everything. Intelligence is about ‘choosing between’.  Choosing whether to express; whether to self-manage; or whether to talk about our emotions.

This is why I do the work I do.  Because it can, and does, make a difference to people’s work and personal lives.

Identifying and working with emotional triggers can really help.

Organisations supporting ex-military personnel find their peace again through working with emotions.   Especially emotional triggers.  So that they can fully return to civilian society. Like the UK organisation ‘save our soldier

I’d add a mention here for employers that actively employ former service personnel and former prison inmates. Because they know that part of the challenge of re-integration is the dignity of having a job.

  • It takes leadership to take on these challenges
  • It takes leaders feeling peace and having a positive impact on the organisation
  • It takes leadership to help others make time for peace

The role of leadership in peace

It takes leaders who model emotional intelligence to allow others to grow their EQ too. Known as ‘transformational leadership’, this is when leaders walk their talk.  It’s also about leaders working harmoniously with their team.

  • Dealing with disagreement in better ways
  • Through sincere and passionate debate, or discussion and collaboration
  • Or an increased use of humour

I like this last option.

I remember being in a tense negotiation some years ago. In the buying team. The supplier had messed up his pricing structure and was being sent away to rethink his figures. I was mortified. We liked the product and the supplier. But there was conflict in the room.  Then one of my colleagues cracked a joke and everyone relaxed.

It was no longer a case of us and them. The conflict, the threats and the power-plays receded. We were all on the same side. The salesman just had to get the sums right, and all would be well.

It was a great lesson in being with leaders who can make you laugh.  The traditional ‘hero-leader’ isn’t the only model. Doing business with a relaxed attitude, even in serious situations, is possible.

Leadership: creating a peaceful work environment

We can spread this work ethic throughout the team: helping people feel fulfilled at work. Enjoying a joke together. Getting the job done at the same time.

This has a positive impact on peoples’ home life too.  It’s not just about coming into the workplace with a good attitude. It’s about going home with a smile too. Feeling good about a job well done.

So whether you’re a leader or a team member, a supplier or a customer, I urge you to consider the ‘Peace One Day’ question for 2014: “Who will you make peace with?” Friend, family member or colleague. It may take some transformational leadership, better emotional intelligence, or feeling peace first, but I hope you’ll give it a go; and share this opportunity with others too.

PostscriptThe Forton Group supports the initiative

Here’s a message from another Peace Day Initiative:

WATCH PEACE HAPPEN: Hosted by WOPG’s Premlata Rawat Hudson and Boom Media’s Kike Posada


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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