Beyond Winning and Losing: A New Model for Congressional Training
by Sharif Azami, Senior Program Officer, and Kurian Thomas, Vice President, Spiritual Transformation
We are currently living in a time of almost unprecedented division in American society, exacerbated by a fractious presidential election in 2020, a global pandemic, and the rapid spread of misinformation in news and social media. This divisiveness is trickling down to the local level, families, faith communities, and workplaces. We recognize that the long-term effects of this division could very well be catastrophic. How do we go about finding solutions to society's most significant problems when there is so much division?
As we think about divisiveness and the multiple ways we could address it, we must consider those in leadership positions and the next generation’s leaders—will they be equipped to handle the various issues facing our society, or will they, like so many of us, retreat into our “tribes”? Is the way forward one side “winning” over the other, or is there another way?
At the Fetzer Institute, we believe that so many of our society's issues are due to a lack of one critical ingredient: love. We must have leaders who understand that the way to address our divisions and the problems we're all facing is to lead from a place of love and care for all.
Fetzer believes that a new kind of leadership training and support is critical to helping our ailing society. While leaders in many sectors learn how to manage people, meet deadlines, and make critical decisions, their inner lives are left out of this training. And in our governmental body, this is the very heart that can help them lead from a place of love and care rather than an ego-centered place.
Fetzer’s recent work with the Millennial Action Project (MAP) to design and implement a transformational leadership curriculum for young members of Congress is one example of this kind of training. Many young members of Congress face early burnout from the hefty demands of the work and nearly nonexistent work-life balance. They also lack enough opportunities to engage and build relationships with their peers, especially those from different “tribes.” Political polarization also poses barriers for them in doing their work.
MAP saw the need for leadership training with a curriculum focused on self-care, resiliency, empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence. With the support of the Fetzer Institute, and in conversation with young leaders, MAP has created a curriculum to build empathetic political leaders who can enhance their capacity to solve problems across lines of difference.
This leadership training model will help young Congress members develop bridge-building skills, establish relationships with those ideologically opposite, build their capacities for empathy, and become more aware of their personal leadership styles. This model is very different from most leadership development curricula as it seeks to build job skills and transform participants into leaders who lead from a deep understanding of both themselves, as well as those who think differently than themselves. They are trained to become “radical bridge-builders,” equipped to cross the deep divides to build relationships and effectively lead our country.
This leadership model is just one example of the type of development needed—not just in our political arena but in all sectors of society. Imagine if educators, business leaders, health professionals, and faith leaders could access this type of leadership training! We would have a nation full of leaders prepared to lead with compassion, curiosity, and love.
The Millennial Action Project's mission is to activate young leaders to bridge the partisan divide and transform American politics.