The other day I saw a post for a headline that caught my eye “On Scale of 0 to 500, Beijing’s Air Quality Tops ‘Crazy Bad’ at 755” because I was just in Beijing. I remember early one evening looking up in the sky and seeing a low flying airplane. Actually, I only saw its lights in the smog.
I got confused looking at it because it looked close, so I expected it to appear to move fast. But it was moving so slowly I figured it had to be very far away.
Then I realized why it didn’t look like it was moving. It wasn’t. It was the light at the top of a building a couple blocks away. The smog was so dense I couldn’t see the rest of the building, only the bright light at the top.
Realizations like this surprise you and I would consider worth posting on and I do post on them, but I’m not writing today about the environment. I’m writing about leadership and getting things done.
What hit me more about the post was that I can’t follow through the link. China blocks access to the New York Times (if you, like I, can’t access the Times link, here’s an article with a similar headline I assume is similar). I could read the Times last summer. I understand they started blocking the Times after they posted a series of articles critical of the Chinese government. I understand the government here has also been annoyed at the U.S. embassy posting air quality measurements that contradict theirs (another article on the same topic).
Getting things done flourishes under transparency and stagnates without responsibility and accountability. If the government wants to improve the situation, I suggest more reporting and accountability.
You and me, here and now
I write here about improving our lives here and now. Intergovernmental bickering seems remote and abstract. Let’s connect it to here and now.
While I disagree with the Chinese government’s decision (rather the decisions of individual people within the government), I understand their perspectives. You do too. We’ve all turned the heat on higher than necessary for comfort to indulge ourselves (thereby polluting others’ air unnecessarily — yes, you and I both contributed to others’ asthma and helped put more mercury in the atmosphere). We’ve all used air conditioning when a fan would do. We’ve flown or driven when the train would have polluted less. Or we could have skipped the trip.
So we understand the government’s perspective. One choice likely seems easy — to maintain stability and control of the situation at the cost of motivating improving it. One likely looks hard — to risk stability and their own positions by exposing deception.
Next time you face an ethical issue, you might ask yourself if you want to make the same decision the Chinese government did. Likewise, next time you condemn someone for taking the easy route or shirking responsibility or accountability, you might think about the last time you silently indulged in something that polluted the air others breathe.
In general you can overcome the personal challenge of figuring out the right option for you with accountability and responsibility.
(And I recommend my favorite starting point to solve all ethics problems — create more options)
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book