I recently watched Inside Job. It’s a documentary that explains the events that led up to the 2008 economic collapse. It’s thought provoking to say the least.
The absence of leaders, then and now, stepping up and boldly taking action casts a bright light on where our leaders’ leadership crumbled, evaporated, and ultimately became a symbolic gesture similar to the middle finger.
The Great Recession offers many lessons for all of us. Specifically I’m referring to the lack of leadership leading up to, during and after the Great Recession. I’m optimistic, however, that leadership lessons from the economic crisis will ripple out and positively influence current and future leaders in their leadership style.
But we can learn today from the collection of mistakes – small to enormous – and begin to shift how we each can make a difference as leaders.
Act with Social Responsibility. A powerful shift we as leaders can make is to recognize the influence our acts have on our communities. Executive teams who elect to not accept annual bonuses when employees are getting no or 2% pay increases would be a powerful statement. A more powerful statement might be to redefine the compensation and commission structure that is available to everyone in the company. From a local community perspective a coffee shop in my community, Origin Coffee, gives its profit to help stop human trafficking. And all of Origin Coffee’s workers are volunteers. Leadership for a New Era has a different mindset: what can I do to make life better for those around me. Denial of problems takes a back seat to collaborating to resolve problems. Passion to contribute to help replaces greed and selfishness.
We-Centric. These leadership acts are those that place the success and well being of the team, group first. This belief is rooted in the premise that when we take care of each other, our employees/workers will care for our customers. We-centric leadership and management actions focus on informing and educating about how the business runs. What the latest P&L shows and what it means. What challenges the business faces. Seeks input from employees and actually follows-up/through with the input. We-centric leadership treats people as adults and assumes workers/employees come to work to make a difference. As Simon Sinek advocates, the Why is understood, promoted, and shared. Transparency occurs to invite understanding, inquiry.
Why-Driven. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle (see video below) is not new. I like how he acknowledges this; He says he codified this concept. It’s humble and true. It’s also motivating, captivating. In short, Sinek explains that when the “Why” behind what we do (“the purpose, cause, belief”) is understood, the purpose for existence is clearer, the cause becomes personal, and belief in the future becomes shared. This is a powerful way to relate to people in this New Era. Such leadership touches the core of humanity. Sound over-the-top? I dare say not. When we are inspired by a cause, like Origins Coffee, we want to be part of the movement. We are deeply satisfied knowing we helped others in need. In the context of other businesses, helping those in need could be our teammates or the customer. It means providing stellar customer service to the point that the customer is so grateful and pleased with their interaction with you. Or a team member is willing to do what it takes to tease out success, despite the opportunity costs. Tapping into the “Why” connects us with the bigger picture and draws us forward, together. Leaders in the New Era know how important this is and exploit it with pure intentions.
Better-Life Drive. The reality is as human beings we are imperfect. Such fallibility drives us to deny when problems exist, allowing them to fester and turn situations from bad to horrible. We collude with others, for example, in not taking the time to understand those who are struggling with something that seems simple to us. These actions prevent us from understanding others in our communities. Leadership in this New Era works doggedly to raise our awareness of a better life where we connect in our actions and our thinking leads us to seek to understand those that a different. This is idealistic. I know. But it helps to remind me when I become petty and my better-life drive sours to mediocre.
Diverse Company Kept. If you watch Inside Job you’ll notice how incestuous investors, bankers, politicians, and universities were in their thinking. The greed and unwillingness to acknowledge and act when the warning signs pointed to economic crises prevented them from understanding the emerging trouble. They were unwilling to seek perspectives different from their own. It was groupthink on a grand scale. When we ask for opposing input to challenge our own ways of thinking, we grow. The team grows. The business has a better chance of growing.
We all must do our part to learn from the absence of leadership we’ve witnessed. It’s my hope we cause a shift in leadership. I want to see less leadership-going-through-the-motions and more leaders who stand up for what’s good for the whole, not the few. I want to see passion-fueled leadership that touches, moves, and achieves results where we can celebrate because of the good done. This is a glimpse into leadership for a New Era.
So, what do you think? What acts of leadership do you see in this New Era? Your thoughts are always welcome.