When I made my entrepreneurial leap I decided two things. I wouldn’t compromise my values and I would only work with people who are fun to work with. I had had enough negativity in the corporate world and I didn’t like the direction it was going. Entrepreneurship has its rewards and challenges, but holding on to my truth has kept me moving in the right direction.

Integrity and honesty were ingrained into my DNA by my parents, my grandparents and my parochial education. Through my decades of dance training, I learned to be tenacious. My mom put me in a ballet class at age 4 because I was awkward and clumsy. It took decades of lessons and rehearsals to become a confident performer, work in concert with a team, and develop a performance mindset. Learning to dance also kept me humble. I was never going to be a prima ballerina but after years of hard work, I did earn my solo moments.

In my 30s, I began serving on different non-profit association boards. By giving my time and talent to causes I believe in, (including a short stint in local politics), I developed the leadership skills needed to start my own business and stand at the front of an organization. Today, volunteerism is still something I am strongly committed to and I have earned some distinction for my contributions. There’s always more to give than to get when you volunteer.

13285583_sIn the words of Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I live in Florida near the beach. I have an awesome family and a wonderful man who believes in me. By all accounts, I’m living the dream; but, I’m not perfect. There are times when I would rather be someone with a lot less responsibility. And when the lines blur, it’s difficult for me to sit on the sidelines and say nothing.

It takes courage to be a leader; to speak up, to take action, and to lead even when facing great adversity. Sometimes leaders have to say or do things that affect others and they may not like it. It’s less about the power and more about doing the right thing for the right reasons. Ducking out of responsibility lets fear rule and compromises everyone’s integrity.

There’s that core value again: integrity. Saying or doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

Lately I’ve noticed more and more bullying by adults. Should we really wonder where children learn this manipulative behavior? It is happening in the workplace, in our community, and the trolls on social media. It seems that there are still mean girls and good old boys who have extended their run long past the sixth grade. Whether it’s a passive-aggressive attack on an individual through a scathing copy-all email or a shredding on Facebook because a meme was shared that wasn’t absolutely accurate, or a public shaming during a meeting, bullies are blurring the lines between tolerance and acceptability.

Bullies control others through fear. They have no self-control and lack personal boundaries as they prey on people with little or no confidence. Adult bullies use their title or their perceived status to intimidate, guilt and manipulate others. They might be the boss, but they certainly aren’t a leader.

I have no tolerance for bullies. Period.

When I was serving as a township trustee many years ago, I requested an investigation into one of the township’s cell phones because the usage did not match the employee’s work schedule. This employee confronted me in the office early one morning. He stood so close that I could feel his angry, hot breath on my face. It was a few terrifying moments but I held my ground and reminded him of my fiduciary responsibility as a trustee. Yes, I did indeed feel threatened by a man spewing intimidating words of anger in my face; but I did not sway in my resolution to uphold my integrity as a trustee. I did not back down. When he saw that he was not going to intimidate me, he did what most bullies do when confronted. He stormed off and spread lies about me.

Bullies are cowards who don’t have the personal strength or integrity to deal with the issues in their own lives, so they transfer their feelings of inadequacy onto those they suspect are weaker and more malleable. Online bullies don’t have the courage to speak their own truth, so they hide behind the perceived anonymity of the internet and parrot whatever tripe and pablum fits their ignorant paradigm. Bullying is a plague that we must wipe off the face of the earth. It has no place at work, at school, online, or in our communities. It blurs the lines between integrity and corruption, leadership and subservience, civilization and barbarism.

Doing the right thing isn’t always the easy thing. Speaking truth to power has been an ethical challenge since Sophocles wrote the play Antigone in the fourth-century B.C. Do not tolerate bullying under any circumstances. Whether it is from an online “friend” who torches anyone who doesn’t embrace their personal world view or an academic who thinks they can impose their homogenous standards of conformity to squash opposition, any attempt to disparage your thoughts and beliefs is not political correctness. It is bullying. Their opinion does not trump yours. Likewise, your opinion does not diminish someone else’s viewpoint. It takes effort and honesty to reinforce your opinion with supporting facts; to base your world view on truth. Truth underscores free speech. Truth creates true respect for all mankind at all times. Truth does not need consensus. The fact that truth is often the first victim of political correctness should tell you all you need to know about the goals of those who embrace the PC dogma.

Have the courage to do the right thing. Do it with integrity. Realize that you have the power to change your circumstances and as a result, change the world. Step up and assume a leadership position, no matter how small you may believe it to be. You have the responsibility to do what you can to make the world a better place for you having lived in it. It’s your turn to lead, to bring the blurred lines back into clear and honest focus. Amazing journeys begins when you decide to take the first step. I encourage you to take yours now. The world needs leaders like you.

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