The expression ‘throwing out the bay with the bath water’ is an impressive symbolic saying. Can you imagine in your mind’s eye somebody actually throwing out the baby with the bath water? For most of us the saying probably means to be careful; not to reject the good or authentic by unwise association with that which we want to reject or ‘throw away’ into the dark night. An illustration of this would be if one had to suddenly discover that a young individual was at a party in your house and was using drugs, and in a rage you lump all the friends of your child with drug addicts, call the police and afterwards chase the lot out of your home. It is not necessarily the wrong thing to stop the party, call the police and send everybody home. But we may well be throwing out the baby with the bath water by lumping everybody as drug users and addicts and possibly damaging our sacred relationship with our children in the process.
In our country presently there are many examples of babies possibly being thrown out with the bath water:
Labelling of all politicians as corrupt
Labelling all our police as corrupt
Labelling our entire education system and educators as very poor.
Labelling our banking and corporate businesses as anti change and transformation.
Jumping to cruel judgments of others without access to the other person’s feelings.
The list can go on and on indefinitely.
From an authentic leadership perspective, the practice of throwing out the baby with the bath water is a daily occurrence that often destroys trust and respect. Some of the reasons that so much harm may be generated by hasty judgments and actions:
- The labelling practice. Labelling people is often associated with a lack of emotional maturity and common wisdom. Authentic leadership is irrevocably associated with keeping our cool in pressure situations. This week I was impressed by the attitude of a middle manager at a very busy Department of Home Affairs office in Centurion He was faced with a pressure situation as a result of the immature reaction of one of his supervisors in dealing with an irate member of the public. This manager listened to the problem without unnecessary interjections. Without a labelling attitude he promptly went about finding a solution to the problem.
- The inclination to disrespect. It is unfortunately a daily occurrence in our society to judge the person rather than the action. Showing disrespect for the dignity, potential and contribution of others may have an immense negative impact on relationships as well as the performance of others. Insulting the characters and sense of value of others is a cruel and irresponsible act that may cause serious short and long term damage. In general it is not differences of opinion that generate harm in our leadership world, but a lack of demonstrated respect for others.
- Misuse of our constitutional right to freedom of expression and belief. How often do we throw out the baby with the bath water under the pretext of ‘just being honest’ or ‘just expressing our opinion’. It is quite amazing to analyse the differences in the opinions we may express on the impulse of the moment, five minutes later and a while later when the full facts are at our disposal.
Authentic leadership is about ‘hou kop’ when all around us people are not.
Every time I feel prompted to act hastily, I would do well to imaging the poor, beautiful little baby struggling, crying and possibly hurt after I threw him or her out in the cold! Not a good vision, is it?
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