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. I would submit we find ourselves at just such a crossroads today. We are in a crisis of leadership, and our world is suffering greatly at the hands of people who confuse their desire for an ego boost, their quest for power, and their thirst for greed with leadership. It’s time to say enough is enough – it’s time for a 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.
Why does all this matter? Because leadership matters…Whether through malice or naivete, 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.
It’s time for a leadership movement that values engagement, open dialog, and candid discourse above 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.
So, what’s next? I recently received a message from Steve Farber (@stevefarber) asking me to sign a petition committing to embrace what he referred to as “Extreme Leadership“. I respect Steve as a leader, and this petition resonated with me at a philosophical level – I signed it. But I must admit I was left wondering what’s next? What happens after the signature? Knowing Steve, I’m sure he has plans to turn platitudes into action, to rally those who want to make a difference into actually making a difference. However it all begins with a first step. I would encourage you to sign Steve’s petition.
Moreover, I’d 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. 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.