Polarization grows. In 1996, Pew Research found only 20% in each political party viewed the other unfavorably. Today, the number is more than double this percentage. We see this polarization in a friend’s Facebook post or a Twitter exchange. Too many view certain issues with a fixed mindset, and it causes a “stick it” to the other side mentality. It is unhealthy.

Polarization is different than disagreement. With the first, we segment ourselves from those unlike us. With the second, we can discuss issues and either agree to disagree or find common ground. Disagreement risks taking things personally. Polarization takes everything personally. We need healthy disagreement while avoiding unhealthy polarization.

What happens is we stay within a defined box of thinking and specified segment of impact. Our narrowness drowns thinking to only what is best for us or those like us. A result is a narrowness of results, meaning we are not improving society. Instead, we are falling backward, putting our society in decline.

We need a betterment mindset.

Betterment is simple.

  • How do our actions and interactions make others better?
  • How do our actions and interactions make ourselves better?

Betterment thinks more broadly about society. Businesses are important organizations within society, just as the government is. We are citizens of both, and we need to think about what makes the organizations we are involved with better. Instead of thinking about what is best for me, and people like me, we need to think about what is best for a diverse society. After all, a good society is only as good as its segments coming together to create a better future.

Betterment is evolutionary and, sometimes, transformational.

Betterment means evolutionary change and, sometimes, radical transformation. When challenges arise, like our environment and climate, we need a radical transformation to prevent further deterioration. Other times, challenges require an incremental adjustment but with a longer-term plan. Gun control could fit into this category with the start of background checks and red flag laws. The standard in any disagreements and plans forward needs to be betterment. How can we make our greater society better?

Betterment is embedded in many businesses.

For a business to survive and thrive, products and services need to improve over time. Similarly, organizational cultures need to adapt and progress in how team members contribute and grow. Financial standing needs to strengthen, too, over time. Investments are required to enhance the business. If leading from a stakeholder viewpoint, then betterment across employees, customers, partners, communities, and shareholders needs to be evident. Betterment requires raising standards across all dimensions, and we need the same method in our political exchanges and solutions.

Betterment requires robust leaders who have a backbone and resiliency in acting for the greater good.

Leaders focused on betterment will do their best to bring out the best in others. We all have potential, and good leaders encourage and bolster our potential. Leaders with a betterment mindset exhibit moral courage on tough issues, and they do so with empathy, ethical interactions, and thoughtfulness. Kindness is exhibited in good times and bad. Kindness embraces the strength of others. Betterment is shown in how problems are tackled by tapping into different views and working diligently to find the best path forward. Betterment engages the best character inside each person and etches a new sense of higher character in how we solve, interact, work, and engage.

When leaders embrace betterment, it becomes contagious within an organization and community. Others strive to do their best in words spoken and actions taken.

Adam Smith challenges us to be better.

Adam Smith is brought up often in some groups but frequently in an incomplete manner. While Adam Smith is known for capitalism, he also wrote about purpose. Recently, Ryan Patrick Hanley, a political science professor at Boston College, wrote a book entitled Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life. Professor Hanley points to the side of Adam Smith that wanted us to think about how to better our condition and develop happiness. Bettering self and society have a working relationship.

While Adam Smith is not known for love, a quote to consider:

“Kindness is the parent of kindness; and if to be beloved by our brethren be the great object of our ambition, the surest way of obtaining it is, by our conduct to show that we really love them.”

As Professor Hanley simplifies this message, “it is the act of loving that brings us love in return.”

While Adam Smith is not directing a best way to live, he is challenging us to live and lead in healthier ways for the betterment of ourselves and our society.

Betterment is our new leadership calling. Step up.

Self-centeredness is an easy path. Our time is now to find our moral courage and lead for betterment.

Try it. Use betterment to test your thinking and actions. Put a betterment mindset to work and see what difference it begins to make.

Let betterment be our new leadership calling.


Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash