The world is changing. That’s always true, but the last few years have amplified the sentiment. Of course, not everyone wants the changes, nor is everyone prepared. Whether it’s positive or negative, progressive or regressive, peaceful or bloody partly depends on you because change does not tolerate casual indifference.
My long-held belief is that all “good” leaders must improve so they can govern themselves and the piece parts of our nation more effectively. To paraphrase and modernize Thomas Nixon Carver’s 1915 “Essays on Social Justice,”
Two things are essential to real democracy. The first is an open road to talent, meaning every person must have an opportunity to rise to positions of power and responsibility in proportion to their ability, regardless of birth, privilege, caste, or other social barriers. The second essential of pure democracy is that those in positions of power and responsibility must be made sensitive to the needs, desires, and interests of those over whom they exercise power and responsibility.
We’ve got some work to do.
It is tantalizing and easy for a segment of deceitful politicians and monied influencers to count on the American people’s short-term memory and forgiving spirit. Our laws and systems, which are imperfect, only improve when those who propose, write, and enforce those laws and systems maintain strong character, are stewardship-minded, and better match the community’s shade and hue. Until then, they will always skew in favor of the legacy colors. I offer two recommendations to focus on in uncertain times.
One, remember the cause, not the symptoms. Symptoms can be uncomfortable or dangerous in their own right, so treating them can make you feel better. However, they will inevitably return unless you resolve to address the actual cause. This applies to any dis-ease, medical, social, financial, or spiritual. Treat them, yes, but do not let the alleviation of superficial pains divert your attention from the root cause.
Second, revisit your founding documents. Review your purpose, mission, and values and determine if any need to change given the new environment. Regardless, ensure the criteria you use to make decisions align with your purpose, mission, and values.
Some feel leadership rests with the elite, but they fail to acknowledge that it takes root with ambitious people from all walks of life. Many would-be leaders already have strong moral fiber and reasonable intelligence, but they lack opportunity, sometimes by their own doing, though more often because of the happenstance of their gender or the color of their skin. That’s not an excuse; it is a corrosive feature built into our society’s structure.
Beyond other accomplishments, this nation not once but twice raised and readied tens of thousands of citizens in short order to become leaders and fight two world wars. Today, we couldn’t even muster agreement on the health benefits of wearing protective masks and limiting exposure to others during a global pandemic. We launch astronauts into space with live pictures of the globe’s curvature, yet in some corners, they insist it is flat. The evidence of the pollution we’ve unleashed on our home planet is irrefutable, yet many continue to blindly dispute and deny it. We have an ongoing series of senseless confrontations and public murders of our fellow citizens shown on replay like a snuff film, yet delay or abdicate seeking justice and accountability for the perpetrators of the offenses.
We know we can do better, but many of us refuse to do so because, for as much as we value declaring our freedom, we’ve grown bashful about accepting our responsibilities. We have a political class that considers it a sign of weakness to apologize or even recognize mistakes they’ve made. The litany of adults in leadership positions who cower over the prospect of being held accountable is an embarrassing testament. Imagine the strength the rare transparent leader who acts with a sense of stewardship, not tyranny, could wield.
Despite claims to the contrary, no one has all the answers, just as no one possesses all the qualities of a great leader. Nonetheless, you can use a few principles as a starting point.
- Know your strengths and use them to the fullest of your ability.
- Care about how people treat each other.
- Have a servant leader mentality, not a serve me attitude.
- Ensure the teams you are on better reflect the community in which they operate.
There is so much latent talent found in good people who need to step up and lead. They are as tired of old unresolved battles and positional leaders not leading as any of us. Some do not feel called upon to lead in the traditional sense. And despite what others say, you can not force someone without the desire to lead. It only invites failure.
Tens of thousands of individual contributors could step up yet feel they need permission first. They do not. They need to redefine leadership, and the extent to which they achieve that objective determines their leadership capacity. First, they must try.
For those who need reassurance, the ambitious, and the inspired but unsure, try leading.
Leadership Strategy or Whim?
Do you have a leadership strategy for your business, or is it closer to whim?
Answer True or False to the following.
- You have established short and long-term goals for your business.
- You know the leadership skills, behaviors, impact, quantity, and capability of talent that needs development to meet immediate and future needs.
- You have and use a leadership competency model that fits your organization’s requirements.
- You have short and long-term leadership objectives and success measures aligned with your leadership competency model.
- You conduct frequent after-action reviews and incorporate lessons learned into your ongoing strategy.
Score twenty points for each true statement.
How did you do?
You don’t have to score a perfect 100 points to be successful. Still, if you’re leading your organization or a department, wouldn’t you feel more secure and confident with a map charting your direction? You’d look more competent.
ACTION: Pick one statement you answered as false and turn it into a leadership development priority for you. Repeat as necessary.
Leadership Development Prompts
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