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© 2019 by Joel Harder

Civility | Integrity | Servant Leadership

Our culture is struggling. Particularly in politics today, people are bitterly divided, angry, hostile, and fearful. Is this simply the way American political discourse is going to be? How are civility, integrity, and the leaders we need possible in the years ahead?


It starts with you because we are all responsible for our culture. It has been said that leaders are downstream of culture. If that is true, then restoring civility and producing leaders who will model integrity is only possible if that is what each of us expects and demands. But how much can one person accomplish? How much power or influence do you really have?


The answer is probably more than you think. Years of working with elected leaders in the Oklahoma State Capitol have shown me it is possible to break cycles of incivility. I have seen the opportunity one person can have to engage leaders in state and local government in a way that breaks through partisan gridlock.


We begin with leaders because leaders matter. It has also been said that leaders set the tone. That is true in any organization, company, as well as in society at large and in politics. Leaders matter because they are in unique positions of authority and influence. In the Oklahoma Capitol, I meet people from all across the state, in both political parties and from all walks of life who come to meet with their elected leaders.


They come to make their voices heard and express concerns, typically over a particular policy debate raging in the legislature. Others come to the capitol because of a specific need or challenge in their community. In almost every instance, they come to ask something of their leaders because leaders have the power to solve real problems.


The state of public discourse in American politics today is a real problem. Even if leaders are downstream of this culture, they are the people in positions of authority and influence who can inspire us to desire better. I have seen it happen and watched the political culture completely transform when leaders were willing to seek better.


I’ve witnessed state and local leaders work together to frustrate tired political narratives by bringing diverse people to the table to find common ground. Those are leaders and the conversations that move us forward and the reason I believe the civility, integrity, and leaders we need are possible.

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