Leadership is not the same thing as power. What we are witnessing in the world’s right now is the slow, steady recognition that, while there are people in positions of power in the country and in the world, they ARE NOT behaving as leaders. Power can present as leadership for a time, but it is a false presentation. Power and leadership are independent and it is only when the two are aligned that society is able to build stable systems where everyone is empowered to contribute to the whole to the best of their abilities.
Leaders inspire and help others. Leaders block and tackle for others. Leaders hold space for those who may not agree with them. Leaders listen. Leaders are humble. Leaders are proactive. Leaders recognize and admit openly that they do not know everything. Leaders make others feel better about themselves. Leaders actively solicit constructive feedback in the interest of self-improvement. Leadership is not having command and control. Leadership is not about enforcing “law and order.” Leadership requires one to understand the struggles of those being led. Leadership demands more.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Leaders speak truth to power. Leaders take personal risks to support the greater good. Leaders represent others in good faith. Leaders build trust; corrupt power destroys it.
Since we are experiencing so many worldwide existential human crises right now, it is in plain view that those in positions of power on both sides simply lack the skills of leadership required to hold this nation and the world together. There is no listening. There is explaining, manipulation and coercion (or increasingly feeble attempts at all three). When power is granted to those not fit to lead, systems break down and everyone suffers. Some people lose their lives. Racism, coronavirus and environmental degradation are systemic issues that require the alignment of leadership and power in order for them to be addressed.
Fortunately, true leaders are starting to appear. Leadership is demonstrated by those who are organizing and facilitating the protests for black lives. Leadership is demonstrated by former political officials who are using their platforms, though diminished from their former positions, to speak out about what they have witnessed, with no benefit for themselves. Leadership is demonstrated in workplaces where structures and programs are being put into place to change recruitment practices to improve diversity in their HR pipelines and hold themselves accountable for the results.
To make real progress, those in power MUST enhance their leadership skills and recognition of leadership skills in others and USE THEIR POWER to build support systems to grow opportunities for alignment between the two groups. There are leaders at the bottom of organizations who cannot break through to positions of power because those in power are concerned with protecting their status rather than sharing and building the organization in ways that might reduce their control. Control is an illusion, however, as the protests remind us. And as the world is evolving, we are all starting to wake up to realize that incentives for hoarding power may be waning as people recognize the value of true leadership.
Be a leader, not by seeking power, but by recognizing the power you already hold and wielding it well. Listen. Be willing to step aside for the greater good. Help others. Serve others, especially those with whom you disagree. Challenge yourself to see things from another person’s perspective. These are the values that will be required to solve the existential issues facing humanity in the near future.
You can be part of the solution. You have the power already. What will you do with it?