When discussing leadership, I am passionate about creating a robust and complete definition that allows everyone to lead, anytime, anywhere. In other words, leadership is about the choice to live the best of one’s talents and abilities and to put them to use in the world. Implicit in this definition is our responsibility to one another and to our community as a whole.
In our fast paced, constantly wired world we live the illusion of being connected to one another, when in fact, so many people feel their thoughts, actions and decisions have little impact on the world around them. We send off Tweets, Facebook posts and E-mails often with little regard for who reads them or how it impacts another’s life—one voice in millions, how could it possibly be important?
In fact, science is telling us that we are more connected than we realize. The Butterfly Effectreveals that with a flap of its wings this tiny, beautiful creature can impact weather patterns on the other side of the world. If such a phenomenon is possible, what does that mean for each of us as we move through our days? Perhaps our words, actions and deeds have a greater impact that we imagine.
If each person took a moment to reflect on the power of their actions and the choice we make in each one of them, we may begin to see our world in a different way. Does it matter how you greet the barista at your local coffee house? Does it make a difference if you are open and friendly with your co-workers, let alone engaging and supportive? And what impact do snide remarks, aggressive behavior and violent activities have on the world if they are “confined” to a trusted group of friends? Perhaps it is time to examine the impact our actions have not only on us, but also on those with whom we come into contact.
Just as the pebble thrown into the pond has ripple effects, so do each of our actions—they don’t simply stop with the person with whom we directly interact. Doesn’t it make sense that if you pass along your bad mood to another that it is likely to keep going? In the same way, if you choose to conduct ourselves in a kind, friendly way, won’t that impact continue on to many people as well?
Reeling from the recent Tucson shootings, the public and our political leaders are searching for answers and the easiest place to look is outside ourselves. While the Pima County Sherriff, Clarence Dupnik alluded to vitriol inspired by political commentators as a factor in the shooter’s behavior, he didn’t take his point to the next level—that is, it is not just the commentators who are spewing anger, intolerance and hate, it is millions of Americans who choose to listen to it, repeat it and integrate it into their beliefs, often without critical examination, then pass it along. Why? Because it is easier to believe that what’s “not working” is someone else’s fault, than it is to accept that each one of us has a responsibility for what happens in our society.
Once people make the Leadership Choice, they acknowledge their capacity to change not only their world; they take on the responsibility of knowing their actions can, and do, change the world. If each person in the country took a moment to reflect on what they can do in their life, to shift the quality of their interactions, I guarantee that millions of people would feel a difference.
Speaker of the House John Boehner described the shooter’s behavior as an “inhumane act.” Certainly Jared Lee Loughner’s behavior is something the vast majority of Americans could never think of doing, let alone begin to understand. Yet, the use of the term “inhumane” separates him from us. The truth is, he is not separate; he is a part of our society that fears people who are different, shuns their behavior, moves them to the outer edges and pushes away the needs of one for the comfort of many—that is until images of violence and access to weapons allow for his pain to be inflicted on those living in his community.
While no one is responsible for Loughner’s actions other than Loughner, are there not actions that each one of can take that would change the quality of our society so that people in his situation have other options to consider. If political dialogue focused on collaboration and consensus rather that on command and control, would these same ideas have sprung to his mind? If the multi-million dollar entertainment industry that courts young men with unrelenting violence in movies, video games and music examined its impact on young people, perhaps different content may become available. And if each one of us who comes across someone in need reaches out a hand, instead of offering an indifferent stare, would a simple kindness change the trajectory of a life?
While this tragedy holds our attention, let us use this opportunity to take a moment, to look inward. Are you willing to lead? To make a difference? Leadership that understands the power of the individual to change the world is what we need and it can start right now, right here, with you.
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