Will You Take the High Road or the Low Road?
By Vicki Voisin, ACP

The High Road is the path to leadership success. What is The High Road? Where do you find it?

Taking the high road is a leadership style that includes doing what is best for all of your members, always staying above the conflict, and never stooping to someone else’s lower level.

If you’re on the high road, you will handle sticky situations with a kind and ethical approach, not with retaliation and revenge.

Here are some tips for traveling the high road:

Understand your organization’s goals and values. If you take the high road, you must have a clear understanding of the goals of your association. What is its mission? What is its long range plan for the next five or ten years? What are the needs and wants of your members?

As a leader, you must focus on these goals and values. Never chasing the goals of another organization. What they’re doing is not your concern. Your job is to steer your association toward its own goals and meet your members’ needs.

Don’t waste your time and energy worrying about what other associations are doing. On the high road, all of your time and energy should be focused on your own association. Every association is different and chooses a different path for delivery of programs and services to its members. So long as you are meeting the needs of your members to the best of your association’s abilities, within its budget and according to industry standards, you are doing your job.

Learn to handle criticism. Every leader will be criticized at some point. When you’re on the high road, you will listen carefully. Is it deserved? Does the person doing the criticizing have all the facts and background information? Give this careful thought. Weigh it.

Leaders should have more information than anyone else about any particular situation…or should get it. This information is used to make the best decisions for all members. If the criticism warrants change, make the changes. If not, stay on your path.

Do the right thing. Leaders taking the high road will set a good example and have the highest moral standards. Remember that leaders are in the spotlight most of the time. They rise above gossip and petty behavior. While it may be difficult to do the right thing under pressure…leaders are human do want to please their members!…it’s crucial that a leader handle pressure situations with class and dignity.

Don’t be drawn into insignificant and pointless arguments. When someone pushes your buttons, your first inclination will be to push right back, to retaliate. A leader traveling the high road won’t escalate this situation with a negative response. You can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Your goal should be to do what is best for the whole.

My leadership experience has taught me it’s not always easy to take the high road but it’s something every leader should strive for. Taking the high road requires confidence in your own abilities to lead, as well as confidence in the direction your association is taking. If you stay the course and follow the high road you will achieve the best results for your members and your association during your term in office. Do you plan to travel the high road?