Are You a Peacekeeper or a Peacemaker?

November 18, 2013

I am a firm believer in the power of education to change the mortgage industry. I believe that the more educated the public is about proper management of personal finances, the more robust the industry will be. I have written before about the importance of educating the community. I believe that leaders in the mortgage banking industry should go out of their way to educate the public. They should hold seminars at libraries, universities, and conference halls. The more informed the public is, the healthier the profession will be.
I also believe that the more educated industry professionals are on financial products and services, the more we will see a thriving mortgage banking industry. While education isn't the end-all-be-all, an educated world increases the chances for a prosperous world. I have written about the responsibility of leaders in the mortgage banking industry to own the outcomes of the their salespeople. By that, I mean that great leaders will ensure the proper training of their people. Depending on the specific needs of their people, they will hire trainers, consultants or coaches to improve the skills of their people. Education is, without a doubt, the most powerful, albeit underutilized tool, for building a stronger and more durable mortgage banking industry.
That being said, I believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to educate. I'm not talking about where the education comes from. Like I said, I believe managers should educate their sales reps. I also believe there is great benefit in seeking an outsider's perspective and hiring trainers, consultants and coaches. And certainly there is value in attaining higher industry-recognized certifications. All of these things are great for building a stronger team. I believe the key thing to consider in education isn't who is doing the education but, rather, how the education is being done.
Here's the bottom-line: Great education challenges existing beliefs. Great teachers don't cater to the perspectives of their students. Instead, they give their students new perspectives to consider. If the education only serves the purpose of making students feel good about what they already know, it is worthless. Students never learn anything until their teachers are willing to confront the preconceived notions they hold and show them a new way of thinking. Great education changes minds. And great learning comes from being open to that change.
In this way, education is a lot like leadership. The teacher is a lot like the leader. Just as a teacher can end up pandering to the existing beliefs of the student instead of teaching something new, you, as a leader in the mortgage banking industry, can end up pandering to the existing beliefs and behaviors of your followers rather than leading them in a new direction.
A friend of mine recently put it into terms that really made a lot of sense to me. As leaders, we don't want to be peacekeepers; instead, we want to be peacemakers. Whereas peacekeepers are more interested in appeasing their followers and making sure not to ruffle anyone's feathers, peacemakers are more interested in confronting issues and changing their followers for the better. Throughout this article, I want to address a few reasons why we would all be better leaders if we were willing to confront problems head on and challenge the thinking of our followers. Great leaders don't keep the peace; they make it.
The first reason why great leaders will adopt the posture of peacemakers rather than peacekeepers is that, while peacekeepers are interested in maintaining the status quo, peacemakers are interested in provoking change. If you want your people to grow, you've got to get comfortable with change. You've got to be willing to break the mold and upset the traditions that they are used to following. A peacekeeper would allow his people to stay where they are, but a peacemaker pushes them toward growth. There is no growth without change. And, as with all change, making transitions in the mortgage industry comes with growing pains. The great leader is not afraid to push his people through these changes in order for them to become better, more competitive professionals in the industry.
The second reason why great leaders will choose to be peacemakers rather than peacekeepers is that, while peacekeepers are more likely to appease their people, peacemakers are more likely to be willing to confront important issues. History has shown us time and again what the drastic consequences can be of adopting a policy of appeasement. Many militaristic rulers in totalitarian regimes have taken advantage of the lenience of opposing countries. In war, no conflict was ever settled by allowing the offender to get off scot-free. It's only when those tyrants were confronted that they backed down. It's the same way in leadership. No, of course I'm not saying that your people are evil dictators. But they can get on the wrong track, and they might need some coaching to get back on the right track. If you were trying to keep the peace, you would allow them to keep practicing the destructive behaviors that they are practicing. But if you were instead a peacemaker, you would be willing to confront them head on and help them to regain the proper perspective before they do further damage. Keeping the peace won't help. If you want your people to head in the right direction, you've got to be a peacemaker.
The third reason why great leaders will tend toward peacemaking rather than peacekeeping is that, while peacekeepers are prone to burying problems, peacemakers will be more inclined to solve problems. Peacekeepers don't like trouble. They prefer to think that, if they ignore it, it will go away. So, they dust the poor business practices under the rug and hope that will take care of the problem. Unfortunately, it always ends up blowing up in their faces. If you want to solve the problems your people are encountering, you've got to be a peacemaker. You've got to face the challenge and deal with it immediately rather than letting it slide. Especially if the issue is a matter of integrity or ethics, you've got to solve the problem right away. But even if it's a performance issue, you've got to be willing to tackle the issue when it presents itself. Delaying the solution never solved the problem. Peacekeepers prefer to turn a blind eye to pressing issues in hopes that they will sort themselves out. But that never happens. If you want to be a great leader for your people, you've got to step forward and solve problems right away. You've got to be a peacemaker.
One final reason why great leaders will opt to be peacemakers rather than peacekeepers is that, when it really comes down to it, peacekeepers aren't leaders at all; they are followers. Sticking with the educational theme that we opened up with, imagine a kindergarten teacher attempting to resolve a disagreement between two children. Suppose the children are fighting over a puzzle. They both want to put the same puzzle together so, rather than making them share or take turns using the puzzle, the teacher simply buys another identical puzzle so they each can have one. If that's the solution the teacher offered, who really had control in the situation—the teacher or the children? Who was really leading and who was really following? That's something that you should ask yourself as you attempt to settle disagreements with your people and as you attempt to guide your people to making better decisions and becoming better professionals. If you attempt to solve their problems just by always giving them what they want, aren't you really following them? Great leaders aren't as interested in giving their people what they want as they are in giving them what they need. Great leaders aren't interested in appeasing, pandering, or keeping the peace. Great leaders are peacemakers.
I am not at all suggesting that great leaders shouldn't listen to their people or consider feedback from others. Proverbs 11:14 says, "Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers." I believe this maxim wholeheartedly. Great leaders are great listeners. Great leaders are willing to learn from others and are always open to alternative points of view. They become great by surrounding themselves by even greater people. I want to make that very clear. Great leaders willingly admit that they stand on the shoulders of giants.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day and after all has been taken into account, the great leaders are those who are willing to take a stand. It's easy to simply back down and keep the peace at all costs, but great leaders will resist that temptation in order to do what's best for leading their people. No one ever said leadership was easy. But, if you are strong enough to stand up for what's right, it will always be worth it in the end.
So what about you? Which path will you take? Are you a peacekeeper … or a peacemaker?

David Lykken is president of mortgage strategies and managing partner with Mortgage Banking Solutions. He has more than 35 years of industry experience and has garnered a national reputation, and has become a frequent guest on FOX Business News with Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney, Liz Claman and Dave Asman with additional guest appearances on the CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV and radio. He may be reached by phone at (512) 977-9900, ext. 10, or e-mail dlykken@mortgagebankingsolutions.com or dlykken@mbs-team.com.