Where Have All the Good Leaders Gone?
Leadership. It’s a word that gets tossed around like a sack of potatoes in business school classes, corporate seminars, and the traditional schooling system. But if leadership is a word that’s on everybody’s tongue, then why do we have so few examples of pure, unadulterated leadership?
What does leadership actually look like anymore? Has our world seriously forgotten what leadership actually is in action?
2020 resembles a world written by a dystopian sci-fi author, full of nasty twists & turns and highlighted endlessly by a 24/7 news cycle along with social media sites that prey on controversy. Leadership definitely isn’t one of the defining themes of these seemingly dark and uncertain days. But what if it could be?
For every 100 leadership quotes posted on Instagram, how many acts of leadership are actually being performed in real life on a day to day basis? The world needs true leadership now more than ever, but how does one grow the next generation of leaders with so few leaders out there right now?
At the same time, as this lack of leadership storyline progresses, technology has rapidly transformed our world. Human behavior itself has been changed by Iphones, internet connectivity, and social media. Companies like Google and Amazon are more powerful than almost every country on Earth. Technology is here to stay. So how do we use technology to inspire leadership that can reach a larger audience than at any other point in human history?
In our 4 part series, we’ll be answering the following questions and diving deeper into how we can start to build a model for leadership that can begin to change the world, little by little, starting now:
- How do we grow a new crop of innovative leaders?
- What are the best ways of combining technology with leadership to build people instead of tearing them down?
- Can we make Leadership required learning or at least integrate it into our educational systems?
One of our beloved clients, John Addison, a real leader amongst leaders and former CEO of publicly traded Primerica (NYSE: PRI), says it best. “Growing and developing is not about becoming a storehouse of information. It’s a process of gaining & giving.”
Leaders Don’t Grow on Trees
Wouldn’t it be nice if growing world-class leaders was as simple as picking one off a tree like an apple?
It just doesn’t work that way. Becoming a leader means years of trials, tribulations… and just straight up struggles until you’ve fine tuned your communication skills or managed enough teams to understand the principles it takes to win. In today’s world of short termism, we haven’t taken the time to start designing curriculums that teach young people soft skills & leadership over a long period of time.
America has been fortunate to be the home of some of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. Using people like Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Admiral William McRaven, Michael Jordan, as shining examples of a leader gives us a glimpse of what true leadership can accomplish whether it’s in sports, the military, politics…you name it.
While there may be a rare few that are born leaders, the majority of humans on Earth simply aren’t. The idea is to make leadership a standard building block of the education system, just like science or history or math. If we can start to build each student up and give them confidence to lead others in their own unique way, suddenly our country’s path looks a lot brighter.
Some students might be more inclined to continue pursuing leadership than others. That’s okay. Simply showing each kid what they’re capable of opens doors in the mind that might ever have popped open.
Qualities of a Top-Class Leader
What makes a leader, a leader? Having a position of power makes a leader in title but doesn’t actually mean that people really respect that person. Below are three leadership qualities that true pioneers & trailblazers exhibit. These qualities are developed over time and take relentless inward inspection day after day. It’s not easy to be a leader.
Have you ever met someone who really listened to you when you talked. Really, truly tried to understand what you were saying without thinking about what they wanted to say? Listening has to be the most important quality for any leader because leadership comes down to serving others, and without understanding what others need, one can’t be a leader.
Listening is obviously an innate part of being human but like everything else in life, it’s something that has to be purposefully developed.
A skilled listener is that guy/gal with high emotional intelligence that can pick up so much more than what is being said. Oftentimes us human beings don’t really say things exactly how we want to say them. We temper our message based on what people will think or how they’ll respond. A strong leader gets that fact, and can tell what someone is trying to get across.
Imagine what the world could look like if we had more listeners than talkers.
Analysis Paralysis. Information overload. These are the great mental crises of our times. With the entire knowledge base of human history one click away, we literally have the world at our fingertips. All of this knowledge & access has caused something weird to happen. We take less action than ever before. We’re afraid to slip up or make mistakes and we all tend to overthink things a little too much.
Leaders take action. No matter how they feel they take action.
Ever read a book about Navy SEALS out in the field? Most SEALS touch on decisiveness as one of the key traits that make them the most elite fighting force in the world. By taking action and getting into motion, they’re able to quickly change course if things go wrong rather than trying to think their way out of a situation. Thinking only goes so far.
Here’s another word you hear all the time that’s completely lost its meaning. Empathy means “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others”. Does it feel like empathy is at an all time high right now? Probably the exact opposite.
Empathy requires being at peace with yourself first, before you can have the calmness in the present moment to completely put yourself to the side and understand someone else.
A real leader understands that they’re a servant. They serve others by making others better and enabling others to shine their light into the world. If someone on a leader’s team is having a bad day, empathy allows the leader to understand instead of getting frustrated.
Empathy is the difference between a team that would die for their leader and a team that’s just doing their job to get by.
Forget leadership styles, leadership definitions, and all of the talk about leadership skills. All of the fancy business school style lingo can take us away from what the heart of leadership truly is. Empathy+Listening+ Action in real life, in everyday situations.
Putting the ego (very hard to do) to the side is key to all of this.
In Part II, we’ll cover how we create a new crop of leaders that are ready to take on our Digital Age, and all of the unique challenges that come with it.