In my opinion, all good leaders must step up to disrupt and dismantle the entrenched complacency of lousy leadership. Yes, better leadership development and accountability are required to bolster the essential skills and effectiveness of established and future leaders. However, too many existing lousy leaders are being excused or hidden behind culture, tradition, ego, and fear.
For example, some good bishops have protected abusive priests, instead of the children put in peril.
Some good commanding officers have defended their bases along with the predators who have raped fellow soldiers or committed war crimes.
Some good cops have lost their judgment behind the thin blue line, rather than acknowledge blatant wrongs.
Some good college administrators have failed, choosing to save the reputation of their schools instead of the welfare of their students.
Some good prosecutors have failed to file charges against racists or abusers, citing no evidence, until the public sees the video footage.
Some good executives who began their careers with dreams of giving back to their old neighborhoods, instead hoard what they reap.
There are some teachers who openly despise children and some doctors who prescribe pills when empathy would do.
Some politicians who were brave enough to throw their hat into the ring, quickly cower and become beholden to the monied who mold them, instead of the many who need them.
The loudest voices continue to be rewarded, despite their incoherence. It is as if the masses have trained themselves to tolerate the intolerable. Critical thinking has become too hard, attention spans too short, personal relationships too shallow, and the gulf between “action, now” and “someday I’ll,” too deep.
Repeatedly, leadership responsibility is ignored or abdicated by individuals and institutions who can ill-afford to do either. Opposing forces invest valuable resources to demonize, minimize, and tell lies in efforts to belittle those who care, pause to think, act decisively, or dare to admit uncertainty.
Many people entrusted with positional power develop a preoccupation with preserving their ego, which often (either by ignorance or intent) inflicts harm into the lives of others.
Effective leaders are not perfect beings, nor do they pretend to be. When they err, they are remorseful. They offer to make amends quickly, not disposable apologies, eventually. Make no mistake; effective leadership is far beyond important; it is crucial. I want to make sure that when the opportunity to lead arises, the capable take it and do it well.
Imagine how much more we could accomplish if leadership ceased to be an ego trip or a popularity contest. What if the number or size of problems solved, crises averted, lives saved, elders respected and cared for, children fed and educated, defined success instead of the subjective smiley faces on a survey or the number of zeros on a balance sheet? What if everyone, regardless of stage or station in life, were inspired to adopt projects that used the best of their strengths and abilities, and contributed to improving a small part of the globe? What could you fix, enhance, eradicate, or disrupt to transform your world?
Nearly everything we enjoy today was brought about by intangibles, like belief, confidence, imagination, and a spirit of change. And change requires courage, a willingness to face down those who cling to the status quo like hyenas to a leftover carcass. Weak leaders often have a depletion mentality and thrive off envy, guilt, and indignation. Too often, they make noise over yesterday’s success, even if they had no part in it. They howl over scarcity as well as routinely reduce the vulnerable to tears and admonish any opposing views as evil or stupid.
We feed poor leadership with our complacency. When lousy leaders tell stories we all know are untrue or whitewash their recollections to burnish their gravitas, we inexplicably nod our heads and marvel at their newfound wisdom. We forget these ruddy skinned emperors are naked. They do not see their failings, and with the risk of retribution or embarrassment, we frequently do not allow ourselves to see their failings either.
It’s time to require more of ourselves and those who choose to lead well. We can disrupt, dismantle, and destroy the practice of lousy leadership by confronting each sliver of blind assertion with bigger slices of truth and non-rhetorical curiosity. Embrace courage and demand accountability, results, and forward movement. Successfully doing this requires us to detach from our ego, ignore our irrational fears, and regularly increase our knowledge and flexibility. We must learn to expand rather than contract, be comfortable with dichotomy, and recognize that the world is not stagnant. For every blissful summer, there is a bleak winter to endure. Sometimes, there is more harm come before greater healing can begin.
Despite frequent claims, good leadership is not rare. It is everywhere. But too often — as evidenced by the pall of discontent and dwindling percentages of personal engagement — some good people allow leadership to fall into irresponsible hands. That is why my primary focus and daily activity is to help lead and inspire others to maximize their strengths and continuously improve themselves, their organization, or our society by bringing the powers of vision, passion, and action to each endeavor. With stronger and kinder leadership, we can solve greater problems that are worthy of our time, treasure, and talent. That’s the type of leader I endeavor to be, and I want everyone to become.