Extremely Radical

Extreme is the furthest from the center or a given point. It is the outermost. Radical is characterized by independence or departure from tradition. It is innovative and unorthodox. I was fortunate to hear Jeff Struecker speak recently. His stories about his experiences serving our country and his testimony of faith are incredible, and he made me think about the difference between extreme and radical.

We have a lot of extreme right now. People seem to be gravitating toward the ends of every spectrum. We like to think there was a time when this was radical from the standpoint that it was a departure from tradition, but I’m not so sure about that.

People are naturally radical in that they tend to desire independence and often rebel against “traditions.” Almost 250 years ago, a scrapy group of individuals swore their allegiance to one another and to an ideal of a community where the power that came with the ability to enact laws and extract taxes would be granted by the governed (and could therefore be revoked by the same). It was a revolution, and it was both radical and extreme.

Lest you think everyone agreed, they did not. There were many who believed the old system was fine, and they fought to keep it. They called each other names, undermined each other publicly, and, in the end, actually shot at each other. I imagine if I had been alive at that time, I would have wondered if we would even survive.

They did survive. A new community was born. One where we have freedom to speak our thoughts about our leaders without fear of being imprisoned or killed. One where we directly benefit from our labor. One where we can believe what we want, even if our neighbor doesn’t agree. That’s extremely radical.

Leaders often have extremely radical people around them. If we build our teams with passionate and committed people, we are going to have some rebellion. It is easy to react to rebellion with suppression, but if we do, we might miss the kinds of new ideas that lead to new, vibrant communities.

There were several opportunities to avoid the revolutionary war. If the King of England had listened and been willing to see value in new ideas, a compromise might have happened. Pride and arrogance coupled with an inability to let go of “the way things have been” led to a costly war. They needed a leader, not a king.

Leaders who will not listen with humility risk causing a full-scale uprising. However, leaders who bend to every whim and fad are not leading; they are following. Leadership is about balancing the needs (and ideas) of each person with the needs and traditions of the community. Leadership is finding the path forward that carries the best parts of the past into the best ideas of the future.

As you participate in your traditions this Fourth of July, I encourage you to think about how you are leading your team. Are you helping each person see the past as relevant while encouraging openness to new ideas? Are you allowing healthy discussion and disagreement while protecting the safety and value of each team member? Your team needs a leader, not a king. That is extremely radical, and it is the Bison Way.