Some of the smartest people often fail to make the simplest decisions. As I’ve seen firsthand during my trip to South America, Bolivian President Evo Morales provides a classic example. His country faces a tension-filled crisis in which violence already is erupting between Bolivia’s indigenous population and its government.
The dispute centers around a major highway that is being constructed straight through the “protected” rainforests (Wikipedia: TIPNIS). As planned, the highway will completely disrupt the lives of Moxenos, Yurakaré and Chimanes peoples who live in that area, while producing considerable ecological destruction to the jungle. On the flipside, the highway promises significant advantages to Bolivia’s economy, increasing its production and distribution through exports.
Bolivia’s president wants to see economic progress, and the indigenous populations want to protect their way of life. If these communities are destroyed, the people will likely be forced to beg in the streets to survive.
This is not an either/or debate. This problem can be solved so both groups can benefit. Economic growth can occur without destroying the ecosystem and in ways that set up the indigenous groups for success. Mutual benefit.
A few things that could help as the construction of the highway moves forward:
- The government can adequately compensate the indigenous population for what they will lose.
- The government can train the indigenous population with skills to take advantage of the new infrastructure.
- Engineers can adjust the highway plans to cause minimum impact on the rainforests and on the indigenous populations.
- The government can grant the indigenous populations assistance and favored treatment to start new businesses that will benefit them and the economic growth of the area.
Unfortunately, Morales refuses to meet with the indigenous people despite continued requests. He won’t compensate them, train them, adjust the plans or assist them in any way. He is not interested in creating mutual benefit or a collaborative approach.
No wonder it’s tense. What choice do the people have? They are losing so much and not even being granted the attention of the person in charge. The situation has become so tense that we had to alter my travels through Bolivia to avoid potential eruptions of violence.
I can’t help but think that Morales’ actions are an example of a bull-headed approach by a powerful leader who lacks discernment and common sense. A better move would be to listen and look for “win-win” solutions. That’s what Anywhere Leaders do.
How about you? Are you charging forward, close-minded behind an initiative, leaving a trail of people debris in your wake. If so, try adjusting your approach to minimize potential damage. Consider these things before you push your good idea bullishly forward:
- Listen to those who will be most negatively impacted.
- Talk with them to identify ways to minimize the impact and ensure progress occurs.
- Make special accommodations to alter the negative consequences of others through compensation, training and/or favorable treatment.