When we exclude other from participation, it says much more about us than it does about them.

To be clear, this is not about the situations that arise when people demonstrate bad intentions, are not qualified, are divisive, or are, frankly, too stupid to participate. This is not about focusing on individuals based on qualifications.

This is about exclusion because you do not want others to join you.

Because your insecurities, your fears, your challenges and your desire for control are threatened by the participation of others. This is not about them. This is about you.

When we choose to take the position that only we understand, only we qualify, only we can do the job, only we can etc. etc. etc., we by default choose to take the position that others are a threat to us if they participate. We build figurative (and literal) walls, we establish exclusionary policies, we tighten our inner circle and we put up barriers to participation that make it difficult, if not impossible, for others to join us. And if they insist, we act hatefully and cut off our proverbial noses to spite our faces.

There is such a lack of maturity and confidence in this behavior. These are not the actions of people who are mature, brave and who have confidence in their abilities. These are the actions of people who are drowning in their own lack of ability, who are in way over their head, who do not have adequate management ability or subject knowledge and who are scared. New participation represents change, and those who resent it are ill-prepared to deal with it. When you act in a way that demonstrates a fear of change, you are outing your inadequacies. There is no effective disguise in preventing others from participating. The people who can be the best partners to carry you forward will see it and judge you for it, then they will determine that your position is better off in more capable hands.

How ironic that the very behavior people who lack maturity demonstrate is the behavior that often removes them from the position they seek so desperately to hold in an unbreakable grip.

There are always others who are smarter, who work harder, who know more, who are more dedicated or who will outlive you. You will ultimately be forced to relinquish your grip and, depending on your response and planning, you can watch what you love remain as it was and die or you can watch it change and grow. Either way, the end result is often ultimately out of your tightly-curled grasp.

When those in leadership take this approach, that of exclusion, the result is often the same. We see history repeat itself because immature and insecure people make the same mistake on repeat, refusing to do the hard work to be able to extend an open hand. That open hand may allow people to take, but it also allows them to give. It allows you to build capacity and accept positive change.

It’s worth noting that your grip cannot be broken with an open hand.