• 11.20.12

To Find A Way Forward, Leaders Must Embrace The Lost Art Of Compromise

The best long-term business relationships are grounded in the fact that both sides must win–something Washington would do well to remember today.

To Find A Way Forward, Leaders Must Embrace The Lost Art Of Compromise

We recently elected our latest group of women and men to help lead this great nation. This democracy of ours is an amazing accomplishment, one that is still the marvel of the world. We are not governed by monarchies, despots, or militaries but by our fellow citizens, and now our expectation is that they will govern. They will lead. They will address the challenges of the day with real action. Yet recent years have created a vitriolic cesspool of inefficiency in our nation’s capital that has made me lose faith not in our government, but in the fundamental character of the people who choose to run for elected office.


I happen to be one of those people who think government doesn’t really have a big impact on most businesses. A president doesn’t create jobs or fix an economy. Governments can certainly help (the auto industry bailout) or hinder (the over-regulation of free trade), but most of the time capitalism does a fine job of creating jobs, innovation and wealth. What government needs to focus on is creating security and fairness for all.

And no political party has a lock on how to ensure that security and fairness are maintained. It takes a broad range of thinking and understanding to create the solutions for today’s wildly complex world. A melding of the best ideas requires politicians of character who are wise enough to understand that compromise is not a sign of weakness but of intellect. Not a sign of mediocrity but one of assembling the best of all contributions made to solve a problem. People who do not understand the power of compromise are often blinded by their vanity or arrogance. The greatest leaders of all time were geniuses at the art of compromise: Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, and Clinton.

Today, more than ever, we need that genius to return to our government. Leaders from the right, center, and left need to all open their eyes, minds and hearts and get their collective crap together. We need the best thinking from all corners of our political spectrum to be put into action. And we need to eradicate the self-serving political arrogance that has too often kept our best ideals from being realized. Why? Because the greatest of our American ideals is that we are a melting pot of a nation that has always believed together we can accomplish anything. Not divided, but together we can solve any problem. American nobility comes not from privilege but from competence. And the truly competent people are smart and secure enough to find compromises that make sense, that build on the best thinking and recognize that we are not all the same, but we all deserve consideration.

The business world recognizes that the art of compromise is good for business. The best long-term business relationships are grounded in the fact that both sides must win. That is how prosperity is sustained, through working hard to find a way in which everyone succeeds. It’s not just good for business but also for our government. We need to create a more secure and fair environment for our businesses to thrive. We all need to give a little, but when we do, we will gain enough to fulfill a new American dream for all. I wish our new leaders the wisdom of the true American nobility.

–John Coleman is the CEO of The VIA Agency, based in Portland, Maine. VIA works with the likes of Samsung, Perdue Farms, Welch’s, Macaroni Grill and Unilever.

[Image: Flickr user Erikadotnet]

About the author

In 1993, (and with no agency experience) John founded The VIA Agency and developed an effective model in which cross-functional teams solve complex marketing challenges and help clients find new growth. The model combined his engineering background, his unbridled love of ideas and his entrepreneurial appetite and produced results quickly and consistently—earning a spot on Inc.