We now live in an age where it is common, and at times almost acceptable, for our leaders to follow corrupt paths. We have billionaire investment CEO’s who bilk their clients out of their life savings! We have media stars who profit from insider trading tips! Our political leaders get caught up in every scandal imaginable! Finally, even our spiritual leaders manage to stray off the path of virtue and fall into the abyss of immorality!
I am not here to pass judgement, apologize for the acts of others, or spew out eternal damnation towards all of this misled individuals. Instead, I am here to ask a very simple question. Where have all of the leaders gone?
Throughout the ages, men and women have risen to the occasion when there was a leadership void. They committed themselves to a cause or a group and they moved forward for the better good of all involved. Tough choices were made, lines were drawn, policies were formulated; and the leader simply led. In today’s age it would appear that potential leaders shun the responsibility that faces them head-on. It is easier to walk away than it is to face the challenge!
If we are indeed suffering a leadership void, the question that begs to be answered is “why?” I propose that the art of leadership has been conveniently packed away in the attic of self-interest and preservation. Nobody wishes to take the risk, in fear that they will somehow suffer personal loss. Leadership is not about what benefits you receive; rather it is about what benefits you give. In short, it is selfless.
Managers dictate policy and actions. Leaders inspire others to do the same. Managers seek to find fault in the work of others. Leaders see the unlimited potential in everybody they meet. Managers work from a carefully crafted plan, never deviating from the path. Leaders have a vision and passionately share it with others. Managers seek personal recognition for their efforts and successes. Leaders bask in the glory of anonymity!
How do we then cultivate the next generation of leaders? It begins with a careful internal examination of who we are and what we want to be. Integrity is the cornerstone of the great monument we wish to build and name “leadership.” It forms the foundation for trust; not just with others, but also in our relationship with ourself. Trust is the mortar that will hold our monument together. A vision of a greater good must be formed into the bricks that will encase our monument. Finally, the doorway into leadership must be built from passion. Once shared with like-minded people, passion will bring throngs to line up outside of our leadership monument!
Let us hope that our newly built monument has not been erected for posterity. Rather, let us hope that it is a living building and that it will serve as the blueprint for others to build their leadership monuments!