It’s February and the events of the past month have made it clear about the message for this month. Knowing what to write is half the battle! As I have watched/ heard various leaders manage their challenges this week the message came to me clearly. Media and society are seemingly having a field day with a vacuum in good leadership! Just a few examples spring to mind: Boris Johnson, Jason Kenny, Candice Bergen, Justin Trudeau, Dwayne Johnson, and so many more! Although the leadership crises involving these people seem to have all happened at once, in fact they all started with a fundamental problem many years ago– a misunderstanding of the importance of strong personal values.
I think the message to leaders is crystal clear- if you want to lead effectively, start with upholding good values; accept that leadership will be difficult; and stand firm when the storm is all around you. Weak personal values lead to illogical thinking, which lead to bad decisions and ineffectiveness. Poor values also lead to inability to withstand the pressure from those around you. There isn’t enough time to dissect each of these leaders’ decisions, but it is important to see that many of their actions have sown mistrust and disloyalty. There will appear to be huge bias in my perspective, so I ask you to look at the substance of the message flowing from this rather than the introduction.
Values: Good leaders know what to do because they have been blessed with strong values that allow them to rise to the top during tough times. Such values enable them to know what should be done; allows them to put themselves in the shoes of people they are dealing with; and forces them to feel the hurts and injustice of others around them. But more importantly, these values allow them to know what their actions (or inaction) harm people around them. Without strong values it isn’t surprising that bad decisions are made, and that leaders are easily tossed aside. I am a believer that most good leaders know intuitively what they should do – to create a circle of safety for those they serve, and to use their constituency in such a way that the majority are engaged/ loyal.
Accept that leadership isn’t easy: Modern day leaders face huge challenges and this shouldn’t be a surprise to them. Their constituents come at issues from polar opposite perspectives; the variety within society is enormous (LGBTQ2, racism, feminism, white supremacism, conspiracy theorists, etc). The first imperative of leadership is to accept that leading will not be easy, and to use their own values/ life perspectives to influence the issues. Effective modern day leaders do not distort their message. Its clear what they stand for.
Stand firm: As they say, if you cant take the heat get out of the kitchen! Our current focus seems to be on those who struggle and fail to lead. My message is to those who want to lead. If you want loyalty from people around you, and support for your leadership, its more likely to happen if you can demonstrate what you stand for, and can accept the challenge that leadership represents. But its likely you will not generate loyalty unless you can show that you can stick at the unpleasant job of being a resilient leader. If the sense is that you are unwilling to stick with good decisions and take the heat, its likely people won’t stand behind you for long. I am more likely to stand behind people who are prepared to do the right thing, even when/ if it takes them admitting that they were wrong.
In conclusion, let me say that the academy is striving to help young leaders be people of value. We emphasize the importance of self-awareness. We encourage people to step out and serve those around them. Our belief is that good leaders are those who create a circle of safety around their followers; and who are not in the game to get things for themselves. Take heart people like you!
Have a great month… Peter Craighead