While today’s column could focus solely on the Benghazi hearings, or various components thereof, a lack of leadership isn’t just a problem in the United States; it’s a global problem. It’s also much more than an indictment on global politics; it’s a systemic problem that pervades every level of society. I don’t think there’s much debate the world is ensnarled in a crisis of leadership. The question becomes what do we do about it?
Every so often a time arrives where society reaches a crossroads – where the situation and/or circumstance so obviously demands change that a populist mandate – a “movement” takes place. Sound familiar? We experienced this during the last presidential election here in the United States. We were sold on a mantra of hope and change, and while the message appealed to many, what many voters failed to do was separate the rhetoric from reality. They failed to test the message by filtering it through the lens of leadership.
I would submit we find ourselves at a very similar crossroads today. We are still in need of hope and change – we are still in a crisis of leadership. Some of the actors may have changed seats, but the cast remains the same. This is not a democrat versus republican issue or a liberal versus conservative issue. The issue is one that extends beyond parties, philosophies and geographic boarders. The issue is simply this; we have forgotten what leadership looks like.
Our world is suffering greatly at the hands of people who have placed their desire to be right above the desire to achieve the right outcome. They confuse their need for an ego boost, their quest for power, and their thirst for greed with leadership. Many of the symptoms of poor leadership we’re seeing today may seemingly resolve themselves in the near term, but the greater problem won’t go away on its own.
Why does all this matter? Because leadership matters… Whether through malice or naïveté, those who abuse or tolerate the abuse of leadership place us all at risk. Poor leadership cripples businesses, ruins economies, destroys families, loses wars, and can bring the demise of nations. The demand for true leaders has never been greater – when society misunderstands the importance of leadership, and when the world inappropriately labels non-leaders as leaders we are all worse for the wear.
I’ve often said, leaders not accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people. But this assumes the people are strong enough to hold themselves accountable for the past transgressions of turning a blind eye from what we know to be right. We must once and for all learn that what we fail to require of ourselves will be hard to ask from others.
We must demand more from ourselves and more from those whom we place in positions of responsibility. Whether we’re talking about executives, politicians, educators, healthcare professionals, or any other class of citizenry, we must stop tolerating those who place self-interest over service beyond self.
It’s time to say enough is enough – it’s time for a real leadership movement. Movements are nothing new. Some movements have been evolutionary, while others have been revolutionary. Some have been misguided or misunderstood and have been short-lived, while others have taken deep root and changed the world for better. I’m afraid we’ve reached a place in history where if we don’t draw a line in the sand and say we will no longer tolerate personal exploits as a poor excuse for leadership we may be too late.
Is this an overreaction? I think not. It’s not too difficult to make the case that leadership has devolved rather than evolved. If you pay even casual attention to the media and world events, it would appear those serving a personal agenda greatly outnumber those serving something greater than themselves. Here’s the thing – we’ll never all agree on what leadership is, or is not, but I think most reasonable people will concur it’s time for a change.
It’s time for a leadership movement that values engagement, open dialog, and candid discourse above the insular focus on protection of personal gain. A movement is a cause greater than one’s self – it’s a populist groundswell rather than an elitist academic exercise. A movement is intentional, impassioned and biased toward action. A movement requires a vision that’s inclusive, collaborative, and has an orientation toward service. Most of all, a movement requires people committed to change.
It’s time for less talk and more action. Leadership is not about the power and the accolades bestowed upon the leader, it’s about the betterment of those whom the leader serves. At its essence, leadership is about people. At its core, leadership is about improving the status quo, and inspiring the creation of positive change.
As long as positional and philosophical arguments are more important than forward progress, as long as being right is esteemed above being vulnerable and open to new thought, as long as ego is elevated above empathy and compassion, as long as rhetoric holds more value than performance, and as long as we tolerate these things as acceptable behavior we will all suffer at the hands of poor leadership.
I encourage you to start making personal and professional changes. It’s time to dispense with the trivial, and begin majoring in the majors. We must bring the best leadership minds together – I’m not talking about like-minded thinkers, but big thinkers – deep thinkers, open to challenging what is considered “normal” with the goal of shattering outdated thinking. We must dialog and debate, but most of all, we must listen, learn and act.
The United States government will survive, other struggling governments and economies will find their footing, but that doesn’t mean the greater problem will have been solved. We must focus on what’s wrong with leadership and fix it. I’d ask you to become a better leader and awaken those around you to the dire need we have for a movement of leadership. This is where we start.
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This article originally appeared at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/benghazi-hearings-crisis-leadership-mike-myatt?trk=mp-reader-card