All too often, the value of leadership is overlooked. It doesn’t matter if it is within a community organization, a for-profit company or a country. The demographics of the constituency do not seem to matter either. Regardless of race, gender, educational level or vocation, more times than not the value of good leadership is overlooked until a bout of really bad leadership awakens people.
Why? My belief is that we are fundamentally selfish as humans. We have difficulty accepting a basic premise of good leadership: the path of least resistance is almost always the wrong path. Our basic selfish nature makes us want to ignore or avoid difficult situations, and we are happy to listen to leaders who tell followers there are no consequences for selfish behaviors, but these bad habits will only produce failure.
I find this period in our country, along with the world, to be particularly instructive. It is clear to see that years of bad leadership decisions worldwide, not just now–but for decades, have brought us to a distinctly difficult period in history. Good leadership within organizations is never fully credited for successes, but bad leadership is palpable as one walks through the door. Our worst examples of leadership result in an active blame game that allows leaders to escape through the back door, precisely because the broad constituency has been an accomplice to the situation. When leadership is done with mediocrity, general frustration and confusion rule the day.
Every morning, I get up and check in with the world. I make it a point to attempt to find out what has happened throughout the rest of the world. (Notice I use the word “attempt”.) I then spend a little time trying to understanding what others believe our issues are closer at home. I continue on with my workday and attempt to address issues that challenge a number of small businesses (again, the word “attempt”). Often in the evenings, I am involved in a community group for which voluntary input is essential to the ongoing activities, and here is the thought that I go to bed with each night these days: Leadership Matters.
What keeps me awake for far too long at night is not the idea that leadership matters, but rather: “If leadership matters, why do we continue to repeat the mistakes, generation after generation, of supporting bad leaders? If leadership matters, why is so little time invested in bringing along other really good leaders at all levels of the organization, a failure demonstrated by even good leaders? If leadership matters, why do all problems get blamed on the lack of money and resources?
Regardless of the answers to these questions, leadership is the difference between success and failure. Throwing more money at organizations will do nothing to improve the problems related to bad leadership. Instead, we must find ways to develop good leadership in the future and to encourage good leadership practices in our current situations.