top of page

The Proper Thing

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

I like to dress up. In my corporate life, it was seldom that I didn’t wear a coat and tie, which I believe is a piece of my past that continually pokes its head through my frame of reference. My maternal grandfather was English and a proper bloke. He came to the United States at seventeen years old and never returned to Britain. He did, however, keep a lot of England with him over the next six decades. To my knowledge, he never came to the dinner table without his dinner jacket. I remember asking him why after a long, dirty, tiring day farming why he would still change into his jacket before dinner. His answer was simple; “It is the proper thing to do.” And there you have it; some things are just the way they should be, and others need help.

The world today, with all its changing and interconnecting, presents an eclectic projection of the future and a bothersome presentation of the present. Today’s leaders are challenged by an ever-changing business model and pressured by climate change, violence and civil unrest, dramatic economic volatility, and a constant narrative that can only be categorized as divisive.

At this point, I must say a few words about transitional leaders. Their leadership is more holistic than individualistic. Transitional leadership is observant, inclusive, and flexible. These leaders understand they have to know to grow and are continually listening, analysing, and recalibrating. They understand the value of their role because they listen to other narratives, even the uncomfortable ones, which allow them to exercise the courage of flexibility. In my thinking, this character trait, inclusive listening, is most valuable in any leadership environment whether it is in business or in managing individual challenges of life which are impacted by the same pressures of the world.

It is my observation that evidence of everything, except inclusive listening, is what we are presented by the ever-present flow of information that bombards us every minute. The volume of this onslaught causes doubts and confusion about what is real and what is not. The question is, “how can we sort out this dichotomy?” What is happening and where do we fit into the whole thing? Most importantly, what value can our voice bring to help make it better? In other words, “How can we be transitional leaders at some scale?”

The Day Namotus Ship Came In (Paul Bond)

In an existence with so many distractions, it is easy to forget the simple things. For example, none of us is only one thing. We all have many different identities, parent, teacher, owner, friend, employee, member, partner, etc. These identities differ from person to person but we all have our list. Though we tend to be categorized by others as having only one identity the simple truth is that we all have many. We even fall into the dangerous place of tagging ourselves with one identity. One focused identity is at greater risk of negative influence to the exclusion of reasonable and rational thinking.

Jacqueline Novogratz in her book Manifesto for a Moral Revolution says, “The more identities we carry within, the more chances to discover that we are at once unique and bound by commonalities.” She also quotes Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who asks, “…why, then, do we reduce individuals to a single story, a single identity that can too easily be infused with our greatest fears about one another?” This is the basic construct of inclusive listening.

My father, Bernhardt Klein, decades ago told me that “none of us are as smart as all of us”. So listen to everyone; you might learn something. That charge has driven me for more than half a century and puts me directly in alignment with Ms Novogratz as she says, “…the person or organization with greater power in a particular moment must be the bridge that extends understanding to those with less power. Without this bridge, real conversations won’t happen.” It is this character that should be a priority. It is the proper thing to do.

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the ocean in a drop.” (thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi)

55 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page