The company Basecamp recently announced that it is banning all social and political conversations at work. They’ve been regarded as a progressive, well-run tech company making unconventional, human-first decisions for years, but their recent decision has been roundly criticized by employees, by Twitter pundits, and by those of us who believe that becoming a-political is itself a political decision. It’s easy to criticize this decision as tone-deaf, and in a time when it seems like companies are becoming more political and activist, it's surprising and anachronistic, but censorship is simply avoidance with power behind it, and many of us avoid hard conversations because they’re uncomfortable, distracting, and unproductive.
In 2021 and beyond, we need more skillful leadership in more conversations, not blanket censorship that produces fewer conversations. If anyone has been a leader or facilitator, they’ve encountered the challenge of trying to align a group of people with different interests, beliefs, stories, and wounds to achieve something together. This is the never-ending work of leadership.
Censorship (or avoidance) is the blunt tool we use when we are too tired or intimidated to navigate these critical conversations and truly lead. Leadership is the fine scalpel we use when we recognize that leading a team, a company, or a movement requires the delicate work of achieving results and staying focused, while also embracing and creating space for the messy beauty of multiple human lives colliding together in close spaces.
We are at a juncture of leadership: either we choose to use the easy-escape, blunt tools of censorship, autocratic decision-making, and progress-at-all-costs relentlessness, or we choose to use the fine scalpels of courageous facilitation, deep listening, and informed, thoughtful decision-making.
The future of leadership requires embracing the messiness of bringing our whole selves to work, of understanding that everything is political, of navigating the collapsing of categories, of cultivating the respect for difference, all while moving things forward by aligning teams and people towards common goals. The table stakes are changing, and censorship is folding your hand.