Where have all the good men gone?
Now lest you think I am taking a bizarre foray into some commentary on the state of dating, match making and the like, allow m...e to assure you that I am leaving such things to the impressive panel of experts on reality TV. This query is around my occasionally desperate pursuit of true, noble, and effective leaders which seem to be as rare and illusive as black eyed tree frogs. (Yes, I had to look up the world’s most endangered species.)
In truth, my interest is a universal one that applies to both men and women alike. I harbor a more than mild curiosity around what seems like an alarming lack of strong, determined, relentlessly principled leaders among us. This isn’t a discussion about our general goodness as people or our collective or individual character. Leadership, is an entirely different, and infinitely more complicated proposition. Are leaders born or are they made? Are leaders situation dependent or are some people wired for the role across all times and spaces? Can we learn to be leaders or are those qualities innate? Is leadership based on a specific set of individual traits or rather on individual behaviors? This discussion could become highly academic, but we can set aside all of the various studies, approaches and models and return to the original question. Where HAVE all the good men gone? Have we just gone soft? Is there no longer a pressing need amidst our relative ease for powerful and passionate leaders? I personally believe our need is perhaps greater than it has ever been.
A pessimist I certainly am not, but our government is largely run by self-serving, less than idealistic individuals. Many of our companies our being run by a bunch of crooks with aspirations that rarely extend beyond wealth and power. Our media unashamedly serves its own self-interest. Our health-care system is a bureaucratic mess of unfathomable proportions. Problems are solved with law suits rather than level-headedness. Our schools have a habit of drumming out devoted and passionate teachers in favor of system that serves a self-important administration first and the kids it is tasked to educate last. Divorce, dysfunction and distance seem to define our homes and families. Have we stopped caring? I don’t believe so. But we most certainly have stopped leading.
I cannot claim to know the root causes of this dangerously pervasive apathy. Are we simply afraid? Are we indifferent? Have we forgotten how to do everything from taking a bullet to taking the blame? Are we so averse to conflict that we continue to nod politely or altogether ignore injustice? Are we afraid to take a stand for fear of judgment and ridicule or is it just too damn much work to be principled when we’re already constantly overwhelmed? We could ask questions and argue the answers until I see a Unicorn in my back yard, but the fact remains. WE have stopped leading and because WE have stopped doing the work, our children don’t stand a chance of learning how to take on a responsibility we have largely abdicated.
Many of you have suffered through my rants about phrases such as, “she doesn’t work she stays home with the kids.” But this is where empowerment begins. With mothers realizing they are, in fact, leading their family and their children’s growth, development, self-esteem and sense of purpose. With fathers realizing they must be leaders in thought, in principles and ultimately in devoted action. We need to teach the lessons that life is about oh so much more than the bottom line, the cars in the garage, the titles you hold or the technology you have mastered. We are not defined by our “likes” on Facebook or our following on Twitter. We are all ultimately defined by WHO we are, HOW we act, and the COURAGEOUS choices we were brave enough to make.
All too often we confuse leadership with grand acts of extraordinary valor. But leadership is as simple and profound as how we treat our spouse, how we love our children, how we set an example, how we treat a stranger. Leadership is as simple as a spoken concern, a card, and an act of simple caring. Leadership is about the right choice not the easy choice. It is about honesty, integrity and unwavering compassion. Leadership is not about what we manage to do, it’s about embracing what we’re capable of. Leadership is simply standing in the gap and insisting that IT matters. That it ALL matters and every act of common courage is endowed with the power to change the world just a little bit. Leadership is about being responsible for the choices we make, the lives we touch and mark that each of us chooses to make every single day. Leadership is understanding that we don’t live in a world where some things matter, we live in a world where EVERYTHING, oh so beautifully matters. Leadership doesn’t mean, “I can,” it means “I will.” I will care. I will love. I will believe. I will endure. I will be strong. I will be tender. I will embrace with honor that fact that every day, I make a difference. And every day, without pause or excuse I will take on the beautiful burden of knowing it is within me to either linger in complacency or lead the way toward resolve and Purpose. If we dare to choose the latter, we aren’t just leaders, we may very well be Heroes.