Good Leaders Let the Light In
Happy New Year, Readers!
I’m kicking off the New Year with a leadership post aimed at inspiring you to explore the opportunities that present themselves in 2016. Don’t wait for perfection. Take action by empowering yourself, learning along the way and enrolling others in your vision.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen
Human beings are fallible. Regardless of organizational, community or societal position, we all mess up at times.
Pope Francis, as demonstrated through his actions since assuming the role of Pontiff of the Catholic Church, certainly doesn’t see himself as perfect. Effective corporate leaders who practice servant leadership acknowledge their foibles and limitations, continuously working to bring out the best in their followers. Two excellent examples in the business world are Max De Pree, retired CEO of furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, and the late Ray Anderson of Interface, a pioneering flooring manufacturer in zero emissions.
As a consequence of our human imperfections, attempting to achieve perfection in our offerings to followers, whether it’s leading a team, a company or community movement, is an exercise in futility. It’ll never happen. The world is too complicated and too interwoven in seemingly disparate events, combined with our unique individual flaws. Therefore, as Canadian poet Leonard Cohen puts it: “Forget your perfect offering.”
And at the same time, the leader’s challenge becomes that more daunting when it comes to ringing the bells that can still be rung. In other words, nothing ever lines up in the real world awaiting perfect execution. One event affects another which influences yet something else. In short order the leader’s plan requires adjustment.
Then there’s the human dimension: keeping everyone on the team – or organization at the bigger level – aligned towards a common purpose. As the adage goes, a team is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, the leader’s aim is to have all the bells ringing. In doing so, it becomes easier to adapt to a changing environment.
The shocks that hit an organization or a community can be more readily dealt with when people are acting in unison based on a shared vision. At a macro level, this can be applied to a nation. Witness the divisive politics and the lack of a shared vision in the United States, where the country is slowly being torn apart, undermining its long-term future of being the beacon for global democracy.
This is where the strong leader enters. This is someone who can see the possibilities and the opportunities for creating cohesion, whether it’s an organization undergoing dramatic upheaval due to global competition, a community whose major employer has shut its doors, or a country that is fractured as a result of racism. It’s a tall order for an imperfect human being, but the success lies in enrolling everyone involved.
This is how the light is let in.
This is your job as leader: determine how to let the light in.
Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.
– Vincent van Gogh
Click here to download my complimentary e-book Discover Your Inner Leader: Reflections to Inspire and Motivate.