The events of this week challenged me to revisit some of the primary qualities of leadership that I studied for my Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine’s University. At the time, I remember thinking how simple these qualities were and how perhaps unnecessary it was to pay all this money for an actual degree that rests on a lot of simple common sense. But after all these years, I’ve changed my tune. I’ve discovered that common sense isn’t necessarily inherent when it comes to those in positions of leadership, whether it be from the top or down to the bottom of small town America. The thing that struck me most this past week, is the seamless ability for leaders to pass the buck when faced with a crisis. When an issue exists that challenges the function of a group, it is a primary function of the leader to address any issue with honesty and integrity. To say, “It’s not my fault”, or “they just wouldn’t listen to me”, or “they aren’t good enough to be here”, or to simply point the finger in some other direction away from themselves isn’t an examples of acting with integrity or honesty. It is also a primary function of any leader to assess what action is essential for the success of the entire group, and not just themselves…even if it means being honest about a mistake made and accepting the consequences with integrity, be it the leader themselves or a member of the group. The kind of behavior that speaks so much louder than rhetoric, is embracing every opportunity to learn with humility and courage. The need to be right, or infallible often takes over the need to be accountable, embrace our imperfections and learn from the lessons that life brings.
I don’t believe that leadership is an innate quality, it is developed over time in the simplest of ways…often facilitated by facing difficult challenges at the hands of those whose desire it is to overpower, rather than empower. I’ve tried to explain that to my sons after they’ve suffered the wrath of the hierarchy of power in school…they call them “douche-bags” I just call them bullies, that their influence won’t last beyond high school. Maturity brings clarity. I’ve told them if I were able to go back in time with a video-tape of what the “douche-bags” of my time looked like 30 years later and show my young self that this is why you don’t need to cry after being left out of the next big party, I wouldn’t have given them so much power to second guess myself. Making the choice not to drink and behave like a “skank” (also my son’s words) was the best choice in the long run for me. Time has a way of pulling back the curtain and exposing the true nature of those we handed our power; they really aren’t wizards after all. And while I may not have made those choices altogether because of my great leadership skills, I did have people in my life who gave me support for the choices I needed to make for me. More importantly, I learned to choose behavior that matched my belief system, whether or not I got support from the rank and file. Standing up for your beliefs is always hard, but it does get easier the more you do it
I wish there were more examples of the kind of men and women whose actions are void of condemnation but ripe with acceptance and high regard, who are honest and have courage enough to be imperfect and accept the necessary consequences, who don’t hide behind the spin of words that paint false perceptions of perfection, who have the foresight to lead us to a better place even though it may be difficult and most importantly, a leader with such commitment and belief in their mission that giving up in the face of adversity will never even be a remote possibility. I don’t care if it is the pope, or a president or the captain of a basketball team. The kind of qualities I just mentioned apply in any situation. I know there are plenty of examples of great leaders out there, I just want them to pushed to the forefront so they can expose how poorly those in positions of power are really doing when it comes to leadership. So, this week…share on your social media outlets, those great leaders who have influenced you in your life, whether they be Julian of Norwich, a favorite of mine, Martin Luther King, Einstein, or even a great coach. Show the world that there are good and true leaders in the world, whose honesty and integrity make them shine!