Is it just me or does it seem like there is a whole lot going on? Whether you’re a news junkie or simply a casual purveyor of news through your social media, you have to admit everyday seems like a gauntlet of war, political shenanigans, economic uncertainty, health scares and increasingly back in the mix, race, gender and sexual identity.
Has it always been this way? Have the collective “We” been blissfully naive or is there really something different going on right now? I’ll save you statistics and analytics and simply say, yes, right now is indeed different. Further exaggerating all of this is social media, the internet, in general, and various other technological advancements. Communication has evolved and we now know more things about more people and places than ever before and these changes have consequences. The world has shrunk, dramatically, and to many this has all occurred far too fast. How we manage this information, process it and base our decisions on it is the Herculean task before us and the leaders of tomorrow. Make no mistake about it, the times have changed, they are still changing and will continue to change for the foreseeable future. We now need to figure out how to identify and prepare our leaders to guide us through this maze and bring us to the promise land.
But how do we define what a good leader is? And is that something we can synthesize or duplicate to generate better leaders? From where I sit, the best leaders are the ones who have your back and can inspire you and/or their teams to heights not even they thought they could achieve. The greatest leaders rarely fit in boxes and categories. They rarely settle, rarely stop learning and tend to be very personable, drawing you in with good conversations, thought-provoking tasks and questions pushing you to be the best you can be. They advocate on your behalf and push you to think about your future. They are also tolerant and hopefully able to craft diverse teams to draw from multiple perspectives and ideas. I lay this before you because it is my sincere hope this is how we raise our children, coach our little league teams and teach our classes.
Just before my son was born, my best friends’ grandmother gave me some of the best advice. She said, “Stevie, it’s all about exposure. Leave a guitar in his room, place a map on his desk or a telescope outside. See what he picks up and help him use it.” This simple task was enlightening to me and instantly made me less afraid of being a new father.
Messages are important. During our formative years, we receive all sorts of messages and each serve as ingredients to our future personality. From this perspective, we can have an impact on the things we all would like to see from our leaders. Life is messy and full of gray areas. We need to keep asking the tough questions of ourselves. Are we telling our youths to respect others? Do we tell them to keep learning even when class is over? Do we say go work for a big company or do we say start a business or take over the family business? Do we encourage them to find new ways to stimulate their curiosity? Do we encourage them to travel or stay close? If they exhibit right brain tendencies and habits, do we present them with left brain tasks to help them become ambidextrous? Even when success is found, these questions and messages should still be received.
Every leader, every task, every opportunity is different. Each will require something unique to its nature in order to solve it, however the common thread to solving these problems or taking advantage of an opportunity will always be an inspired leader. That inspiration begins with our messages to the impressionable minds of the youths and continues with the young professionals who just need that push in the right direction.
I make the assumption that each person reading this has experienced a poor leader in some form or fashion in his or her life. Let’s take a moment, think about the messages we give to others and, hopefully, we can inspire the next leaders to be better than the leaders of today or yesterday. Let’s boil this ocean one cup at a time, one conversation, game, task and question at a time and hopefully, just hopefully, we can slay the dragon with a thousand cuts.