Elijah Cummings Showed How a Leader Engages with Adversaries

This article was originally published in Inc.

Elijah Cummings, a Democratic leader in the U.S. Congress, passed away this week. The  Baltimore Sun’s obituary for Cummings recounts the one time he met with President Trump.  They were both working on plans to lower drug prices when Cummings said to Trump: 

“Mr. President, you’re now 70-something, I’m 60-something. Very soon you and I will be  dancing with the angels. The thing that you and I need to do is figure out what we can do–what  present can we bring to generations unborn?” 

That comment caught my eye because in this very pithy statement, I find Cummings so  beautifully expressing the five pillars of the “Inner Mastery, Outer Impact” method I have  developed and teach at Columbia University and Mentora Institute, my organization for  leadership development and personal growth. Here’s how this brief moment demonstrated these  key principles: 

  1. Purpose: He grounded Trump and himself in a very noble, uplifting purpose. 
  2. Wisdom: He hit the pause button on their debate so he could, as best possible, get both  people centered, ready to operate with wisdom.
  3. Love: He affiliated with Trump by referring to how they will be dancing together soon,  to bring in that moment between them a shared humanity I call love. 
  4. Growth: He practiced growth by seeing the possibility for him and Trump to break away from their fractious political relationship and do good collaborative work together.
  5. Self-realization: He suggested to Trump that their true self was something that  transcended their physical differences, a beautiful way to express self-realization.

Whether or not his politics is our politics, to this man who could practice such powerful grace  and teach us all this lesson in how to bring out the best in ourselves and our adversaries, in life  and in leadership, let us tip our hats. And visualize him in this moment dancing with the angels.

This article was originally published in Inc.