To all leaders and would be leaders…
It would be a mistake to underestimate the profound impact on our national consciousness of stories of callousness, greed, violence and deceit by some people and of the never-ending barrage of scandals among high-profile leaders and celebrities.
More and more we are called upon to evaluate leadership and understand events in terms of character.
This message is meant to be a raw, honest, candid conversation about the current state of leadership.
Specifically, what it is, why it exists, how to be a great leader as well as a number of issues in need of repair directly due to leaders behaving badly.
THE PURPOSE OF LEADERSHIP
Why do leaders exist? What is their purpose? Leaders in every case are stewards of a nation, company, team or family ideals.
A steward is a caretaker, someone who holds something in trust on behalf of others. It’s not behavior motivated out of self-interest or special interest.
Leaders exist to protect cherished values and core beliefs like freedom and privacy, not to undermine them and sell them out.
Leaders exist to sustain and inspire hopes for a bigger, brighter and bolder future, not to sacrifice the future, nor burden future generations for their self-serving, short-term gain.
Leaders exist to provide vision, foster self-reliance and to help drive positive results for all. Certainly not to manipulate, weaken and deceive those in their care.
Leadership is truly about choosing service over self-interest. Leadership properly performed is an exercise in outgoing and ongoing concern for others including defining and setting boundaries as needed.
SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF DENMARK
Unfortunately, the rap sheet on political and corporate corruption, abuse of power, investor greed, deceptive business practices, and dishonesty masquerading as success is long and getting more disturbing by the day.
This type of behavior is systemic, malignant, and it’s global, like cancer.
The behavior of way too many people in leadership positions can be briefly summarized as follows:
1. They care more about quarterly performance, short-term gains in stock prices, self-interest, ego gratification and getting reelected…a lot more than they do about the long-term viability of a company, community or country.
They do not seem even to notice that the two goals are in conflict. Why do I know this? Because, behavior never lies.
2. Their short-term greed, personal and party wins along with their unwillingness to think through the long-term consequences of their behavior leads them to be more interested in appearances over substance, character, and fiduciary responsibilities.
As a result they lie to get elected, manipulate financial results, create diversions and propaganda, engage in diabolical business practices, devise loopholes, game the system to their advantage and willingly sacrifice future generations for their own personal gain.
They parade around thinking of themselves as a force for good and a beacon for honesty and transparency, but have proven again and again that they prefer a lucrative, self-serving lie to an expensive truth.
3. In their shortsightedness, they sell their souls to the seduction money, power and other forms of greed. They use their position and power to bully, intimidate control and silence those in their care, while serving the true desires of their dark masters.
Because of leaders behaving badly, we have become a world lead by arrogant, self-serving elitists, and their weapon of choice is…institutionalized bribery.
As a result of this deplorable behavior, a small number of wealthy people, economic elites and corporations exert a large degree of control over the general population.
They stack the deck in their favor, play with loaded dice, and fix the rules of the game so they win…and you and I lose.
THE RIGHT STUFF
Let’s now turn our attention on the bright side, on the solution and the core attribute for being a great leader.
Leadership is all about one enduring quality, character. Popularity is temporary, change is often unpredictable, and interest rates always fluctuate, but only character endures, it is the one true constant.
For leaders to be effective there must be uncompromising emphasis on integrity of character. If you doubt this…consider these questions:
“What type of person do you want your daughter or son to marry?”
It’s time people stop pretending that driving results was more important demonstrating good character. If you are unable to achieve victory with honor…don’t take the job because…CHARACTER COUNTS!
Stewardship is only virtuous if the good of the community is sought out and achieved above all else by its steward.
A steward then, is an individual who upholds what is best for all people even if it may not be in their own interest to do so.
In addition to protecting values and beliefs, good stewards live those values as a model and example for others to follow.
Why is this important?
It’s important because throughout your life, you will find yourself thrust into many different leadership roles. You will be called upon to be a steward of what is right and good, lasting and of value, for those in your care.
The quality of your stewardship depends greatly on what you perceive a steward to be, on how you think about other people, on the seriousness of your commitment, and most important on how you determine what is right, good and worth holding in trust.
Leadership is everybody’s business as it is an issue that affects all of us. Not only are we impacted by it, but also, we are all called upon to exercise it in any number of temporary situations.
Whether we are called upon to be involved in leading government or business, coaching a team, educating young minds, leading a family, organizing a dinner party, a carpool, a household, or standing for what is right, everyone participates in leadership roles.
Are you the kind of person that others want to follow?
Do you walk your talk and set an example worth emulating?
The answer to those questions depends on your character. A strong leader sets a strong example!
No one, under any circumstances should ever be appointed to or accept a leadership role unless they are willing to have his or her character serve as the model for others to emulate.
How many times can you demonstrate poor character before becoming too weak to overcome the big challenges you are destined to confront?
Violations of honesty and integrity dilute your strength, suppress your psychological immune system, and chip away at your self-esteem.
People have an indisputable, divine right to expect and demand good character and exemplary conduct from their leaders. Therefore we must lead with character or get out of the way.
The true test and strength of an enterprise, a family, or a church is not to be found in their products or services, but in the character of its leaders.
The character of the leader is the conscience of the community.
It is character through which leadership is exercised; it is character that sets the example, and is character that is imitated.
Character is not concerned with political correctness; it is only concerned with doing the right thing.
People with character understand that what works is not necessarily what is right…even when they can get away with less…even when the wrong thing seems like no big deal… even when no one is watching.
Life is full of curious and meaningful paradoxes. Steward-leadership is one such paradox that will serve you well in all of your leadership roles and through each day of your life.
ARE YOU WORTHY?
Before you take on a leadership role…ask yourself a few simple but important questions to determine your worthiness.
Am I the type of leader whom other people want to follow?
If everyone modeled my behavior…what kind of culture would be created?
What can I do to set an excellent leadership example that inspires, friends, family and associates to raise the bar in their own performance?
Heed this warning…you will pay a price for demonstrating high standards and strong principles.
While people may be impressed and respect you, they won’t always like you. You’ll wrestle with inner conflict. Buyer’s remorse might try to settle in. You are likely to obtain a few battle scars as you exercise good character. Nonetheless, carry on!
We live in an age that increasingly sacrifices personal responsibilities at the altar of personal freedoms. When we fail individually and collectively to take seriously the importance of character, we begin to self-destruct.
History leaves us with enough clues to believe with confidence that we can only experience true success and happiness by making character the bedrock of our lives.
People follow the leader and YOU are the leader!
Gary Ryan Blair