A while back I was thinking about leadership, borne out of watching the biopic, ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ and also watching the enlightened Unilever-Oxfam ‘Project Sunlight’ advertising campaign on TV. The theme of the latter is leadership. ‘turning feelings into action’, as well as believing in something greater than ourselves, whatever the cost or sacrifice. Regardless of a person’s age or background, each and every one of us can make a difference in this world. Fact.
I have met a lot of leaders over the years, albeit from different industries such as Government leaders, entrepreneurs, Royalty, celebrities and creative artists. The ones who stand out are those who think past their ego. And I don’t say this lightly. Their character is infectious and with passion often flows change and success. We can all be a part of this circle of positive change, if we duly allow ourselves to, by taking our inherent selfishness and ego out of any particular equation.
Of the many people I have worked with, the people who allow their egos to take over the ‘why’ behind their efforts, always trip up. If we hark back to the likes of Mandela, Angelou, Gandhi, Branson, Luther King, Thatcher or Churchill, the public personae we all see, respect and hail, whilst some are hated (the haters will always be haters), they are trusted by many. And trust goes a long way. When the ego gets in the way, people often stop thinking clearly and they make mistakes. I have seen this time and time again.
It is often those in lesser roles, the over-compensators or those trying to be something they are not that let the ego take over. And when I say ego, I mean the importance of self rather than in support of the greater (and often global) good. Today, more than ever, we need leaders to help us move forward against an increasingly dark and frightening global backdrop. We need those who are prepared to take action and not just sit on the fence for safety or talk behind closed doors. To make the world safe, prosperous and secure, I genuinely believe we all have the collective power to achieve this end, together.
Without strong leadership, this is how any ‘terrorist’ or extreme political faction creeps into our lives. In broadest terms, take Nazi Germany in the lead-up to the Second World War and how their force rose to power in such an unprecedented way. Hitler was a leader, albeit a dictator and the German people believed and followed, partly because the social strata was weak. This can (and may) happen again, anywhere in the world, with different details but a similar, equally horrific outcome. Our social parachute is crumbling once again.
Only today, I saw on Facebook the horrific photo shopped image of skeletal Holocaust victims blazening anti-Israel slogans. Firstly, how does such a poster find its way onto Facebook and not be banned (when a small business might be banned for ‘selling’ services). And secondly, regardless of what you think of any political power or country such as Israel as an example only, how can anyone use such a barbaric and tragic image to sell political power. I find it abhorrent that we walk around with our eyes half-closed, fuelled by GM milk and green and white coffee cups (that I don’t drink I might add!).
If we had strong, trustworthy and emotionally intelligent leaders, the UK and its people would be in a better place culturally, socio-economically and politically. Our former National Pride would be restored in relation to modern times as well as remembering what we were as a Nation, as we did on Remembrance Sunday. It wouldn’t just be an Olympics, our Former Great Glory or a sporting win that temporarily united The British Isles. We need more. We hold a candle to Remembrance Sunday but allow extreme political groups to mock the very tragedies we uphold and remember as a Nation.
Great leaders inspire teams and motivate them to achieve great things, in any environment. A job becomes more than a pay cheque or clock watching within companies where leadership is strong. Individuals feel appreciated and usually love what they do. At innocent towers, for example, all staff used to have their own named breakfast bowl (I don’t know if they still do) – a small detail but…
Working in such a dynamic and fun place, who wouldn’t want to go to work in the morning just that little bit earlier to share and engage with colleagues? One of the brains and human wonders behind this amazing business, Richard Reed, is a delight of a man. He is a great role model for other business leaders. And just like every other (business) leader, he started out with a thought, a belief and a feeling…one that he and his colleagues turned into action.
Mandela could have died in prison or indeed turned his terrible ordeal into bitterness. He was prepared to die for his beliefs. I have visited Robben Island and can’t begin to imagine how he kept his mind strong in those conditions, before you even add into the equation that he lost his mother and son whilst incarcerated. Like some other great leaders, Mandela’s voice and light impacted upon the entire world, regardless of what might have gone on behind the scenes personally. And this extraordinary light will keep burning in his name.
We can ALL make a difference, however big or small, regardless of whether you are saying thank you to the person serving you in Tesco’s to giving up your seat on the Bus to an elderly person. By doing so, that same person may continue the chain and be kind to someone else. You are leading by example. We can all be(come) effective leaders within the confines of our community and social environment.
The young passionate believers that feature in the Unilever-Oxfam advert are our symbol of hope for the future but we also have an individual responsibility, right now. We need to encourage and lead the young, nurturing talent and fresh voices who will not allow a lack of current positive leadership to deter them from achieving great things. On a micro scale we can all make responsible decisions, today. The very Planet that we are destroying is the home of our children and our children’s children. We forget this, amidst the chaos of a social and technological fog.
So what are you feeling or thinking is wrong in the world today? What is great and wonderful and how are you celebrating it? And, more importantly, if something is wrong, what are you doing about it? How can you be a better parent, partner, sibling, child, boss, colleague, altogether human being? Are you just standing on a soap box and doing nothing, complaining that life dealt you a tough hand? Or it is just your ego that wants to be heard and fed so you write provocative thoughts on Social Media to feel powerful? Choose your thoughts and feelings carefully today, park the ego and lead your children, staff or communities, by example, into a more positive and creative 2015. Make Madiba proud.