Abraham Lincoln may have said it best. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the General Assembly of Illinois, nearly three decades before he would be elected President of the United States. In concluding his first political campaign statement offered on March 9, 1832 to the people of Sangamon County, Illinois, he said, “. . .Upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I have thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them. . .so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous, I shall be ready to renounce them.”
At 23, Lincoln could scarcely have imagined the trajectory of his political future and the ultimate seat of power he would occupy. What he did realize, was that his thoughts, his beliefs and thus his political positions were based on what he knew, understood, and what he had come to accept at the time. He recognized that time, experience, and the vicissitudes of life could change his perspective. And in fact, it did.
There are time-honored beliefs and standards that form the very base of civilized and humane thinking. Beyond those, thoughtful leaders, are open to new information, new interpretations, and previously unknown developments. They are sensitive to changing time, changing conditions, and changing demands. They are secure in their thinking and their opinions, but only so long as they continue to represent what those leaders currently know, believe, and understand. They are neither whimsical nor capricious in thought, word, or action. What they are is situationally aware.
Timeless leaders adjust to new information, and in so doing they evolve and develop deeper sensitivities. They question the world in which they live, and they are open to self-reflection and reappraisal of even their most ardently held beliefs. They welcome and carefully consider diverse views and opinions.
If what you believe isn’t reviewed and potentially revised based on new information and understandings, you are operationally compromised as a leader.