On Jan. 3, at least 109 newly elected members of Congress will assume office in Washington. While their beliefs, backgrounds and sympathies may differ, they will all arrive with one thing in common: a sincere desire to solve big problems and help make our country better.
That this statement has inevitably caused some of you to roll your eyes is evidence of just how polarized and dysfunctional our political system has become. The growing lack of civility between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives has convinced us that folks with opposing philosophies can't possibly work together to solve our nation's problems. As a result, far too many of us — elected officials included — have fallen prey to a nasty case of confirmation bias: We embrace information that validates our existing belief system and ignore that which challenges or seeks to expand it.
If ever there was a time for true leadership, now is that time.
As the co-founder and former chief executive of YUM! Brands, I have seen the best of what leadership can accomplish. And in the wake of George H.W. Bush's death, I am reminded of the power of "honest compromise and shared progress," as his former rival Bill Clinton wrote about his beloved friend. With engaged, inspiring leaders, warring factions can find common ground and stubborn problems can find solutions. But when leaders tear each other down, don't invite input and — most dangerously — doubt the sincerity of their coworkers, problems worsen and enterprises fail.