Did you know that we’re in a global leadership crisis?
That thought has popped in the news a lot lately. There have been breathless editorials from all angles about the decline of leadership in government, education, entertainment, religion, business, art, and the family. We’re not as strong as we used to be seems to be the common refrain, and our world is on the verge of collapse because of it.
Suddenly, leadership is a hot-button issue. A must-have skill set.
It’s become a popular field of study, found everywhere from high schools to higher ed. In some ways, it’s gratifying. I’ve been teaching about the importance of leadership for over forty years, so the surge of interest is nice. As I hear more about the leadership deficit, the same solution is pushed forward repeatedly: we need more men and women who can lead. And I agree.
But while the world can always use more leaders, the deficit isn’t just a numbers issue.
It’s also a character issue.
We don’t just need more leaders—we need better leaders.
We need leaders who have a healthy perspective on what it means to lead. We need leaders who leverage their influence for a greater good. We need leaders who don’t burn through people, resources, and vision.
Why does this matter? Why do we need better leaders?
Because better leaders change lives.
Now, this isn’t some slogan, or motivational claptrap. I believe this with all my heart because I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve seen my friend Gabby bring transformation to her home country of Paraguay. I’ve seen my friend Chris Hodges build an incredible ministry in Alabama. I’ve seen Rick Hendrick serve people in Charlotte, Collin Sewell help people in Texas, and Ed Bastian improve lives all over the globe.
Leaders know that their role is about more than self-gratification. It’s about making a difference in the world. As people pay more attention to the way leaders negatively impact the lives of people, it’s a good idea to stop and think about the way leaders can make a positive impact.
Here are five ways leaders change lives for the better:
- In a time of dehumanization, leaders value people—leaders have an affinity and appreciation for the people they lead. They see people as having worth that isn’t tied to output or production; leaders understand the intrinsic value each human being has and add value to people based on that understanding. Intentionally adding value to people makes people feel valued.
- In a time of discouragement, leaders encourage people—discouragement has become a native tongue for many, especially online. We live in a world that encourages people to diminish and dismiss any train of thought that stands apart from their own. Leaders encourage people to something different—something positive. Leaders speak life to their people, pointing out and affirming the good in each person, which makes people confident in themselves and their ability to make a difference.
- In a time of apathy, leaders equip people—it would be wonderful if encouragement alone were all people needed to make a difference, but it’s not enough. They also need to be equipped to make a difference. Leaders take the time to train, coach and mentor people to help bring out the talents and strengths of everyone.
- In a time of cynicism, leaders inspire people—one of the most challenging things for a leader to do is balance reality with vision. Reality says, “This is where we’re at,” while vision says, “This is where we’re going to be.” Leaders who embrace a positive mindset find a way to cast vision for what’s possible while acknowledging what’s true. It’s an abundance perspective that makes people hopeful.
- In a time of powerlessness, leaders empower people—of all the ways that leaders change lives for the better, nothing matches the gift of empowerment. Leaders take their power, combine it with their belief in the best of others, and give both away freely. When people have both the faith and authority to make a difference, they have the energy necessary to act with boldness.
If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely because you can envision yourself as a leader. You want to make a difference in the world. You want to change lives for the better.
Let me assure you, we need you.
Develop yourself as a leader. Develop the leader within you. The world needs your unique contribution to the problems we all face. You can change lives for the better.
You just start with your own.
Mark Cole: Five Tools for Communicating Vision
How Leaders Make Failure Their Friend
Mark Cole: For Your Dream, Believing Isn’t Enough
Daily Decisions That Affect A Leader’s Success