We structure special partnerships that help opposing leaders work together, two by two, whether as co-mayors, co-county commissioners, co-chairs in a state legislature, or even co-governors.
What makes our partnerships special? The way we use role reversal to amplify empathy and trust over time.
There is a misconception out there that partners need to agree. Requiring agreement where it doesn’t already exist, however, tends to bring out brinksmanship and bargaining behaviors that can destroy relationships. Our research suggests that taking turns as the final decision-maker – reversing roles on a routine basis – is far more conducive to developing trust and collaboration.
Role reversal makes the Golden Rule a practical necessity, not just an ethical principle. Because what you do will be done back to you in the immediate future. This is a way of aligning the head and the heart. For too long, for too many leaders, they have been disconnected.
Within these types of partnership structures, the smart thing is to do the right thing. This typically means working out agreements on process first, and substance second.
To manifest these types of partnerships structures in the real world, we are doing three kinds of work:
1. Developing ideas. To develop our ideas, we are supporting the science of partnership in the lab – specifically, at the Leadership, Institutions, Mindsets and Behaviors (LIMB) Lab at the University of Florida – as well as learning from the practice of partnership in real organizations.
2. Connecting people. We are pulling together a tribe of 1,000 open-minded apostles of partnership. We call this the “unity community.”
3. Creating examples. For these ideas and people to impact the conversation at the federal level, we need to prove them out at the local and state level. We need to create beacons of partnership for all to see. We’ve already identified many cities, counties and states that are divided against themselves. We need to bring our ideas and our people to those places, roll up our sleeves, and prove what’s possible.
It doesn’t take a constitutional or policy change for us to get started. With your help, we can start tomorrow.