...do you know where your tax return is? Today is annual tax filing day and like clockwork, tens of thousands of people around the country will wait until the last second and then rush to their local Post Office to get their returns postmarked just before the midnight deadline. It's a ritual.
Human beings crave ritual. Rituals have always been ways to create meaning, promote a sense of order in a chaotic world, and establish community through shared experience. Understanding the meaning they convey however can be a little tricky.
When we observe the behavior or individuals and groups, observing their rituals can be an important window into that understanding. But observation alone isn't wisdom - it's simply noticing. We could observe the lines of late filers, and the slew of anti-tax posts on FB this morning and conclude the vast majority of our citizens are filing at the last minute to protest government spending. Or...
Wisdom involves seeking to understand motives and behaviors, the "whys behind the what" and not just noticing and acting. It could be that this April 15th ritual means that people are busy, or that completing tax forms is complicated and challenging for most, or that we hate giving away anything we earn to anyone, government or vendor. Maybe all of the above and other things as well. Yet, until we get a little deeper and ask why people behave the way they do, we can't understand their motives and values, and therefore can't lead most effectively.
Wise leaders understand the power of rituals, and seek understanding of their true meaning before acting.
What rituals do you notice in your people, and what wisdom do they offer you about what they value?