Make Leaders Great Again
At a time when we are about to elect our next President and we’re faced with polarizing options to choose from, it is about time we get real about leaders. Take a look at the most popular leadership theories, books, and magazine articles out there. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about leading in business, in the church, or in our communities, something major is missing.
What’s missing is the REALITY of what the leaders are facing.
Any writer or speaker who reduces the challenge of being a leader and leading well into 5 to 7 steps to success is missing the point, and the point is a big deal. There is not one simple way to lead well because there isn’t one kind of leader. However, we so often prop up, elect, and reward one kind of leader. We prop up the leader with the loudest bark who oftentimes cares the least, or who cares most about the wrong things. If you read that last sentence, and you thought, “Yeah, I know a leader like that! I so agree”, be careful because you thought you and I were in agreement about the right thing. That bark may be about everything we stand against and the people we want to blame, or it may be about one direction and one way forward.
Regardless, it’s a bark that serves our personal needs and purposes.
We prop these leaders up because they have thick skins, and don’t care what others feel because they don’t feel what others care about. Most importantly, we prop them up because we follow conviction like blind lemmings being led to a purpose – whatever purpose they define for us. For these leaders, vulnerability is off the table not only because they may not have it, but because we won’t elect them or choose them if we see it. Vulnerability is weakness because it is. We only want to see the sins of our leaders if those sins serve us.
A willingness to change requires vulnerability, and vulnerability is an openness to being hurt. Any other way of defining it minimizes the reality of what it means to share parts of yourself that others could end up using against you.
Leaders too often get to lead because they have an answer, and we want answers. The danger of these leaders is that they lack wisdom, connection to others, and the openness that they might be wrong.
We are just as responsible as the leaders themselves because we constantly sabotage thoughtful and courageous leaders around us.
Because we are so often driven by our own biases, we will like leaders as long as they serve us, and then form a mutiny when they don’t. The leaders we probably should prop up are a different breed, but we oftentimes miss them because they are thoughtful about when they speak and how they say it. It’s not political correctness, but thoughtfulness. If you want to know what it’s like to be a leader, to go first, and to actually care about the people around you, you have to know a leader who is actually working hard at becoming a better leader. Talking about leaders we don’t know as role models only gets us so far because all we know is the story we or someone else has constructed. Besides that, the leaders we see in history books were either vilified or seen as heroes. For every amazing leader you know, there is a story of courage, conviction, and possibility, but there is always another story. That story is one of loneliness, doubt, fear, sabotage, and even depression and a lack of purpose.
I’m not attempting to simplify the human story of leadership into one more formula for what’s right, but I am suggesting that we are missing the opportunity to see things as they are. It’s only then that we can be more mindful and intentional about surrounding and supporting the launching of a new kind of leader. If we don’t, the stakes are so high. The power of evil in our world is overwhelming at times, and we have a part we play in that.
We need leaders who have these crazy things called wisdom, discernment and a courage and a willingness to be edited. We need leaders who have a sense of themselves, but who are willing to change. None of us are perfect, and that’s the point. It’s not enough to say we’re not perfect and call it a day the way that Donald Trump might say it. Please don’t crucify me for this, but there is one things that Donald Trump sometimes gets right. He will say the things we know are true about our biases. However, he has little capacity to say things with a sincere connection to what others are feeling. I don’t know the man, but it’s what we see. He is loved by some because he says things that few of us are willing to say out of fear that those would be career or friendship ending moments. We are thin skinned and fearful because a dose of wisdom will do that. We have to live out the possibility that we need to change something about ourselves. If we are to make leadership great again, it starts with us be willing to lift up a different kind of leader. They are the unlikely ones, and because they might be reluctant, they will need encouragement and someone to have their back.
– Dr. Rob McKenna