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Leadership During Turbulent Times

We Are All Leaders

We are living in turbulent times.  On global and local levels, threats of force, and actual violence, are present almost everywhere we look.  While many of us are fortunate or even privileged, no one with a conscience can ignore and not be troubled by the events around us.  Manners and civility have seemingly vanished, rudeness and lack of consideration has become de rigueur, entitlement has taken on a demanding and aggressive tone.  In a recent essay, Michael Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health, highlighted the rise of workplace violence in healthcare.  In fact, physical and non-physical workplace violence is on the rise in all areas.  An average of 1.3 million non-fatal workplace violent victimizations occur yearly (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).  No sector of the workforce is immune.

Whether we lead a large enterprise, a smaller company, a department, our family or just ourselves, we are all leaders.  We have the responsibility and obligation to set examples by modeling the behavior we would like to see.  In his book "The Just King" the 19th-century monk, Jamgon Mipham, councils the leader of a kingdom. The qualities he advises the king to pursue include fairness, self-control, education and compassion.  Substitute the word “leader” for “king,” or put in your own name, and the wisdom is as applicable to each of us as it was valuable to the king.

Leaders profoundly influence those around them.

We need only to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to understand the impact the instability around us can have.  Safety, community and belonging, and even our own self-worth can be threatened and leave us feeling insecure.  It is at the pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid, self-actualization, where we as leaders can excel.  If leadership is influence, as John Maxwell said, self-actualized leaders can be powerful role models.  Not every leader is necessarily free from the concerns of the more fundamental needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy, yet they tend to focus more on the higher, more mature, needs.  As such, leaders tend to achieve.  Whether it’s the commitment to the business and a strong work ethic; or, more importantly, the demonstration of “the possible” however we wish to define it, leaders profoundly influence those around them.

In their book "Built to Last" Collins and Porras debunk the “myth of the charismatic leader” as they recount the successes of visionary companies whose names we all know, led by individuals whose names are known by only a few. This should give us all hope that we can be leaders even if we weren’t born with an elusive “leadership gene.”  

In these challenging times, I ask you all to be leaders. And in doing so, reflect on the teachings of Mipham: Be fair, be thoughtful, exercise self-control in all aspects of your life, and most importantly, be compassionate.

“We cannot despair of humanity, since we ourselves are human beings.” – Albert Einstein