Leadership is always a subject that finds its way into the headlines. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a decline in the high standards that we expect to see from our leaders. Whether we are talking about sports, politics, business or religion, why are we so often profoundly disappointed in our leaders? Why do so many fall from grace and how does it come to pass that character becomes secondary to title?
Whenever a new scandal rocks the world, our faith in our leaders chips away. Unfortunately, the recurring shock following a leadership debacle rarely produces profound, long-term change in an organization. Elected officials who replace a disgraced predecessor are a prime example. These officials often assure voters they will be different – promising a new direction, a thorough house cleaning and a commitment to squeaky-clean behavior – but once they are elected, they too succumb to the trappings of power. Another similar leadership group are CEOs who profess to uphold the values of their corporations, shareholders and employees, yet find themselves living in a bubble, completely disconnected from reality.
It seems to me we are missing the point. Leadership is not about title. It’s about character. Neither is it about position power. It’s about personal power. We expect our leaders to be accountable, trustworthy and decisive, yet we remain complacent. We assume they operate with our best interests in mind, yet we don’t question their actions. We say that leaders are fallible, yet we remain silent. We presume they are leading their businesses and their people, yet we don’t take the lead ourselves. Double standards are evident on all levels, yet the fact remains that change starts with us.
The truth is that many of us are never taught how to take the lead in business, at work and in life. As a result, we settle for mediocrity, dissatisfaction and a self-defeating mindset. Is it “better the devil you know,” the comfort of the status quo, fear of the unknown, etc.? Or is it self-doubt, a lack of faith, trust … perhaps all of the above … that we use as an excuse not to take initiative? We have a burning desire to let go of people and situations that no longer serve us, yet we hold back. Until the level of discontent becomes greater than the fear of change, the outcome remains the same.
My purpose in founding the Lead Yourself First Institute and subsequently writing Lead Yourself First! is to encourage anyone who feels stuck, who has experienced disappointment professionally or personally, who finds himself or herself at an impasse, who expects life to deal them an easier hand, to choose to take the lead instead. We cannot alter the way in which others decide to shape their own destiny. However, by applying some simple, life-changing lessons, it is truly possible to lead yourself first.
About the author, Michelle Ray:
Michelle Ray is a leadership expert, author and Founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute. Her book, Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons in Business and in Life will be released worldwide by Changemakers Books on September 26. (Photo: By Imagery Majestic)