Conflict – The Road Not Taken

By Tino Mantella

President & CEO TLG

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. 

-Robert Frost

I don’t presume to have any special expertise to interpret the deepest meaning of this Robert Frost poem, but since I have the power of the pen, for me today, it speaks volumes about the choices that we make in life and the resulting impact of those choices.

It also represents conflicts all of us have regarding the decisions we each make. If I extend this thought it seems to me this could be about right and wrong and good and evil.

Today, we are all sitting at a crossroad.  What we do or don’t do is amplified due to the 2020 environment.  Not to be so profound, but where are we heading as a human race?

We do have a lot to think about.  COVID-19 has wiped out over 180,000 people in the USA. Think of it as wiping out every man, women, in child in the city of Providence, Rhode Island. Then again, if people are not working, they could lose everything.  I suppose the real question is could more people go back to work while less people are losing their lives from the virus?  How are decisions being made and what is the motivation for those decisions?  Conflict – if a vast majority of the scientific community are telling us that wearing a mask is saving lives, why would anyone say it is a personal choice to not wear a mask?

Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying – “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”.  That might have rung true in 1900 but are we buying it in 2020?  Are we not in conflict, as a society, between what is in it for me and my people versus what is best for people at large?  Conflict – 2020 has brought out the best in us and the worst in us.

Conflict – Transactional leadership and transformational leadership.  Granted, there is room for both.  In the business & political world transactional leaders look to motivate by understanding the self-interest of their followers using carrot and stick. Bass, in 1990, said transactional leadership is grounded in reciprocity.  Peter Drucker and others have talked about the difference in doing things right (more transactional) as opposed to doing the right things for your organization, people, etc. (transformational).  Transformational leaders inspire followers to believe in something larger than themselves.  They encourage looking beyond the present moment to a future worth striving for (described about Lincoln in the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin – “Leadership”).  Is the conflict today – what is in it for me versus the greater good?

I do not know if there is a summary for my ramblings.  I was struck by a line written by Edward Crawford during a Ted Talk. “The strive to gain, the push for power, and this will fail you in your final hour”. 2020 will be a time like no other.  Maybe, I will just end by saying that I (and perhaps you) should consider if this was to be our last day on earth, is it better to look back on our time here and feel good that we did things right or that we did the right things. Let’s all strive to do the right things.