The Thing About Mandates...
…Is that there really isn’t any such thing.
In popularity contests of any significance (where a sizable population is asked for its endorsement of an individual or a subject or an action), the landslide win is not a common occurrence. More prevalent (in my admittedly unscientific assessment) is the close race, where the margin of victory is in single digit percentage points.
Even in races where the margin of victory is larger, say a 60-40 split, or even a 70-30 split, it’s important to remember that 30% (or 40%) of the population wanted a different outcome.
(Frankly, even when you look at landslide wins in the context of the US Presidential Elections, the popular vote is still telling, sometimes more than the electoral college results. For example, FDR’s 1936 win was a landslide (523 electoral votes to Landon's eight) with a popular vote tally of 61% to Alf Landon’s 37%. Reagan beat Mondale in 1984 accumulating 525 electoral votes to Mondale's 13 - a landslide if there ever was one - with a popular vote tally of 59%. In both cases, a material chunk of voters wanted something else.)
The point is, when we win, we act as if our position, our perspective, our policies have been completely and totally vindicated. We act as if we’ve been given a full-on mandate to do what we want. To implement our initiatives wholesale, and then expecting everyone else to fall in line, lockstep behind our march to wherever it is we are trying to go (and wherever we plan to take them).
The reality is that this isn’t the case at all. That, despite our win, a sizable and material populace voted otherwise. That population wanted something different.
That’s not an inconvenience, or an anomaly. It’s a reality. And, therefore, in any sphere of work where we are trying to drive substantive change, where wide swathes of a population will be impacted, that should mean something in terms of how we behave.
It means, if we want to be effective, if we want to embed real change, if we want to bring people with us, it’s important for us to recognize that and listen. To consider ‘the other side’. To not impose our own ideals without regard for the impact our actions will have on everyone else.
It does not mean we need to necessarily change what we do, but it does mean we need to be thoughtful, both in terms of our strategy formulation, our implementation plans as well as in our communications.
It does mean we have to change our language to one of partnership, acceptance and support. Benevolence is not a dirty word. Compromise is not a dirty word. Bipartisan (not just in the political sense) is not a dirty word. We just need good intentions and positive intent on all sides.
Of course, that isn’t always easy but it is important. Despite the fact that we won, it’s incumbent on us to ensure we make the effort.
Certainly, if we want the change we create to be substantial and lasting.