A Call for Leadership —we already have many leaders
2020 was a year unlike any that we have ever previously experienced. Almost everything changed in some significant way.
The US unemployment rate rose by over 10 percentage points to 14.7%. Worldwide, 88% of organizations either required or encouraged workers to work from home. Countries locked their borders and most travels came to a screeching halt. Entire industries such as airlines, leisure facilities, oil and gas drilling, auto parts and equipment, and restaurants were suddenly decimated.
Enter 2021. By early February 2021, the US Congress had allocated $4 trillion for COVID relief, massive funding that future generations will have to pay for. The US Capitol came under siege, not from a foreign power, but from within. COVID continues to mutate and usher in increased uncertainty just as vaccines are rolling out. Less than sixty days into the new year, Texas is crippled by cold weather, and other areas of the country experienced record temperatures. Possibly worst of all, there is a complete breakdown in trust, something that will not be easily regained.
Almost as a singular voice, nations are saying, “We no longer trust anyone.”
I believe that our customers, employees, families, and the gang down at the donut shop are all looking for one thing; real leadership. Leadership that begins with a vision. A vision grounded in:
- Lesson 1: Optimism
- Lesson 2: Reality
- Lesson 3: Serving
The Oxford dictionary defines optimism as “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.”
Hopefulness, confidence, future, success; these all sound good to me. I am not talking about a mystical power of positive thinking, mantras, or declaring good things and just expecting them to happen. Rather, I am referring to a vision of a future state that is better than today’s current reality. Whether you are a business owner, salesperson, manager, friend, or parent, isn’t that already part of your job? To help others see a better future and encourage them to move into that future? Think of the leadership of Martin Luther King, he had a vision, one that was of a better future, he shared that vision and invited others to join him. We are called to do no less.
The pessimist says, “I just lost 90% of my managed print business because no one is in the office anymore.” The optimist says, “Wow! The landscape just changed. I know that I can figure out a way to not just survive but to thrive in this new world.”
“Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you.” – Alex Haley
“When you argue with reality, you lose – but only 100% of the time.” – Byron Katie
The best leaders share a vision while acknowledging reality. They don’t simply put on rose-colored glasses or bury their head in the sand and walk around saying, “everything is going to be ok.” They recognize and confront reality. I have a friend that has underlying health issues and is very concerned about COVID-19. Now, I could simply say, “Hey, don’t worry about all of this COVID stuff. Come on over to the house. There is nothing to be concerned about.” But that’s not his reality (for the record, it is not mine either). Until he is comfortable, all I can do is find other ways to stay connected. Ways to have conversations about a better future that is on the horizon.
The head-in-the-sand restaurant owner says, “None of this social distancing stuff is real. Everything is going to be back to normal any day now.” The realist says, “I don’t know how long this will last but I bet if I came up with a great curbside menu and I reach out to our customers, I can actually turn this into a new opportunity that even if people do start coming back, will provide an entirely new stream of revenue. Maybe I should hand out $5 off as thank-you’s for our curbside guests.”
Simply pretending something is not real or important doesn’t make it so. We must recognize reality while remaining optimistic. This brings us to our third lesson.
“A life of significance is about serving those who need your gifts, your leadership, your purpose.” Kevin Hall
“Our rewards in life will always be in direct ratio to our service.” Earl Nightingale
“He profits most who serves best.” Arthur F. Sheldon
More than just inspirational, these quotes are visions that when lived out, allow us to lead others into a better future. And isn’t that what we are all after. The parent who wants a better future for their child. The business owner desires a better outcome for her employees and her customers. The salesperson enters the gap between where their customer is and where they would like to be.
None of us has ever been where we are now. We do not know all of the answers but we can ask one question that will help unlock the reality of tomorrow, “Will I wallow in the challenges of the present or will I combine optimism with the reality of the current situation and set out to serve others?” The key lies in my vision for my future. I can either share my misery or my hope. Either way, misery or hope, I carry others into that outcome.
Leadership Questions to Consider for 2021
- What does my vision of the future look like?
- What is the gap between the present reality and the desired future state?
- How can I serve in that gap to help others live a new and better reality?
As painful as this season has been, maybe we can use our experience to become more human, share more hope, more encouragement, and enjoy new ways of helping one another. Now that’s leadership worth following.
Brad Roderick is a revenue generation thought-leader in the imaging supplies and solutions industry. He speaks, blogs and writes articles focused on creating and delivering value to B2B customers.
As Executive Vice President for TonerCycle/InkCycle, Roderick sets the sales and marketing strategy for the company across all channels and is responsible for the entire “Customer Experience” from products to partnerships. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @BradRoderick.
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