Upstanders: 7 Essential Guiding Principles

By February 16, 2017Leadership

upstanders

“Despite my preference to stay out of the media. I’ve taken the view that each of us can be bystanders, or we can be upstanders. I choose upstander.”

Words written from an unexpected individual, Seth A. Klarman, a value investor once called the “Oracle of Boston” by The Economist magazine.

Being an Upstander gains popularity. Starbucks launched an original series highlighting ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Others are using Upstander as a way to describe important moments in history or their own experiences. Upstander is also used in schools for students who stand up against bullies.

Upstander Defined

Who is an Upstander? One definition:

“A person who chooses to take positive action in the face of injustice in society or in situations where individuals need assistance.”

Upstanders take action. More than simple action, Upstanders undertake positive work to solve an injustice or help in areas of need.

The Opposite of Upstander

The opposite of an Upstander is a bystander. Bystanders are spectators. The worst type of bystanders are those who talk about a situation or an injustice yet do nothing. Some bystanders are just talkers.

An Upstander and bystander have one thing in common – they are present. From here, a big divide opens. Upstanders speak up and dig in to facilitate positive change happen. We need more Upstanders and fewer bystanders.

7 Upstander Principles

With a growing focus on Upstanders, certain principles are necessary to ensure individuals stay on the right track for the right reasons with the right habits. Seeing the momentum on being an Upstander is a good thing, and we need to grab ahold of what it means and enliven our work for positive change and action.

Upstanders need to hold themselves accountable and stay focused in the work ahead. Being an Upstander is not easy. Most important efforts are challenging but necessary. Principles keep us centered.

Let’s dive in.

1 – Don’t Fake It

Faux Upstanders will arrive. They will say all the right things but take no action. They are loud bystanders cloaked in Upstander dress. Loud bystanders will spew lots of words on Facebook or Twitter. Most will quickly realize that their words are hollow – no meaningful action to back up what is said.

Never fake being an Upstander. Don’t dilute what real Upstanders are doing.

2 – Take Thoughtful Action

Upstanders study an issue or situation to understand the multiple sides of it. Studying is important work, but Upstanders do not stay in the homework mode. They study, explore, discover, and formulate ideas on how to lead, discuss, and bring others into the mission.

To build robust actions, a certain amount of time is required to understand the different dimensions and perspectives of an issue or situation. The exception is when an immediate situation arises, and timely action is needed. In these moments, Upstanders do a quick scan and understand what they need to do. Upstanders know who and what to protect and step in to diffuse a situation.

Upstanders are thoughtful in what they do and how they do it. A good sense of timing comes by building a good studying and analyzing practice.

3 – Be Inclusive

Upstanders bring diversity in. Upstanders do not see outward differences; they see strength in who shows up to lend an ear and involve their talents to solve an issue. Upstanders understand that we are better together in our diversity. Dividing others into segments diffuses efforts and positive results.

Upstanders gather different individuals to achieve a common purpose and mission.

4 – Don’t Inspire Only, Raise Aspirations

Upstanders inspire. Inspiration keeps people engaged. However, inspiration alone solves little. Upstanders raise the view of those around them to what the positive possibilities are. Upstanders instill an aspiration within others that we can – and must – do better.

Inspiration and aspiration are tightly intertwined. Upstanders weave encouragement and purpose together to achieve a mission or goal.

5 – Choose Words Wisely, Take Smart Actions

By their nature, Upstanders are not divisive. An Upstander speaks to bring people together and move toward positive action. Words uplift.

With an intelligent boost, better actions formulate. Upstanders speak to be understood and then craft next steps to facilitate movement in the right direction. What Upstanders know is the rhythm between the right words and the right actions. Being thoughtful helps as does instilling aspirations.

Simply stated, Upstanders are emotionally intelligent and embrace these concepts in the right way and for the right reasons. They are mindful of others while crafting how to engage to make smart progress.

6 – Be Persistent and Consistent

Upstanders have a steeliness to their efforts. Showing up consistently to do the work is part of their DNA. With challenges, Upstanders know how to renew and keep fresh in their initiatives. Upstanders are dogged in their work, and they need to be. Positive change is no cake walk. Positive change faces stiff headwinds.

Upstanders navigate with a stiff backbone, an open mind, and an intense focus.

7 – Be Open to Change, Collaborate, and Solve

Upstanders are not stuck in their ways. Upstanders maintain a growth mindset through it all. Change is continuous, and Upstanders adapt. In doing so, they collaborate with the right people with a constant focus on how to gain momentum and work toward a mutually-beneficial solution.

Upstanders have an open mind and heart. More than the openness, Upstanders have a strong connection between their heart and mind. While emotions activate themselves and others, analytical thinking keeps workable steps within sight and moving toward a good outcome.

Upstanders Are Active Leaders

With the current political and business environment, many are stepping up for what is right, and many are taking the next step of doing more of the necessary work. A recent article stated that 13,000 women are planning to run for office. More than marching, deeper involvement is happening. Being an Upstander is a leadership model many are beginning to embrace.

We need to encourage more Upstanders while encouraging bystanders to shift their stance. Through the work of an Upstander, diligence is key. Duty is taken seriously. Doing what is right takes deeper engagement and commitment. A leadership shift is underway.

Be an Upstander in your business and community. Keep the principles of an Upstander and build upon. Let’s lead more positive change with a positive attitude and positive beliefs.

What added principles are important for an Upstander? Join in the movement!

 

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Alli Polin says:

    When I think about an Upstander, I believe that they enroll people in the change and in their activism. People want to join them and be a part of the shift and not only talking about the problem. I think that there are a lot of people out there who don’t think of themselves as bystanders but their behavior isn’t grounded in action. I hope that they’ll read your post and make the transition to ultimately create the impact that they care about so deeply.

    Alli

    • Jon Mertz says:

      Agree, Alli. Moving words to action is the next step in the activism we see today. I am encouraged by the fact many are taking that next step. Just think how different our organizations and communities will be with more and more Upstanders! Thank you. Jon

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