Leadership: A Love Affair Gone Cold And Restored
Losing Faith In Leadership
How many of you have ever been disappointed in a leader?
How many of you have looked up to a leader, believed in them, trusted them, only to have your faith in them broken? They don’t step up to the plate the way that you expected and you feel disappointed in them.
Sometimes if the disappointment is really great, we can even feel disillusioned about leadership.
It’s kind of like a great love affair where in the beginning there is so much passion and big dreams, but then over time the dreams die and love grows cold. One tragic love tale is Gone With The Wind where Scarlett O’Hara finally discovers love when she marries her third husband Rhett Butler only she’s still pining for another married man. When she comes to her senses and sees the love she has, Rhett has moved on.
A Giant In Leadership Despite Big Failures
There are leaders from the pages of history that we genuinely look up to who have made a huge difference in the world. These are often people who have led well at a time of need despite personal challenges or failings.
Sir Winston Churchill is one of those leaders. Although he made many mistakes in his political career, he stepped up during World War Two to lead his country in a time of great need to fight against the powerful Nazi regime. World Affairs Editor John Simpson says that “[Churchill] inspired a nervous and hesitant Britain through his sheer energy and force of personality to defy stark odds and never give in.”
One of the ways Churchill inspired his country during those dark hours was through his great gift as a rhetorician, saying things such as “It is no use saying ‘we are doing our best.’ We have got to succeed in doing what is necessary” or…
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”.
In fact, Churchill made such a significant impact that when the BBC broadcast a series in 2002 looking at the top 100 leaders in British history, Sir Winston Churchill was voted by viewers as the greatest Briton.
A Lasting Legacy Birthed Out Of Personal Challenges
One of our Canadian heroes is the great Terry Fox, a Canadian athlete who after losing his right leg to cancer formed an ambitious plan to run across Canada to both inspire people with disabilities and to raise funds for cancer research. He said:
“…I decided to meet this new challenge head on and not only overcome my disability, but conquer it in such a way that I could never look back and say it disabled me.”
After reaching Ontario and covering 5,373 km in 143 days, Fox’s Marathon of Hope was cut short as cancer had spread to his lungs, so he returned to his home province to receive treatment. Tragically, he passed away at the young age of 22 without completing his marathon.
Despite this, Fox inspired millions of people during his short life and has also left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire people all around the world to participate in the annual Terry Fox Run. The Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $700 million dollars for cancer research since that time.
Broken Trust In Leaders
And yet for every great leader, there are many more who fail to live up to what we expect leaders to be.
I was recently speaking with a group about stereotypes and I took them through an exercise where I mentioned specific careers and then asked for the first word that came to their mind, when I said the word “politician.” The first word out of their mouths was “liar”.
So many of us have lost our faith and trust in those who lead us.
And yet, isn’t that what we want? To trust the people who lead us?
Leadership Begins With Leading Ourselves Well
Let’s look at this from a different angle and I want you to answer this question honestly: Would you follow you?
If there isn’t a resounding YES to that question, then you’ve got some work to do. A simple exercise that you could do is to write down a list of all the reasons why you wouldn’t follow you and then choose one or two things to work on for the rest of this year.
The bottom line is that if people are going to follow us, then we need to lead ourselves well first.
It starts with simple things like showing up on time with a smile. What happens when you do this? People know they can count on you to show up on time and they smile back. If you show up with a good attitude, you can shift the attitude of the people in the room. Attitudes are contagious — good or bad. And that’s one simple example of influence.
So we need to begin with self-leadership and the better we become at leading ourselves, the more we will be able to positively influence others.
Restoring Faith In Leadership Begins With Us
Now, what if we could restore our faith in leadership by starting with ourselves?
If we learned how to lead ourselves well and became a trustworthy person, we might be able to change not only our own negative perception about leaders but also those around us. So I want to encourage you to begin today with small things and focus on doing them with excellence and effectiveness. In this way, you can begin to earn the trust of others because of the integrity you lead with and you can begin to make the difference you dream of.
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