“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
(John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States)
Whilst many conflicts rage on around the world, the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia has repercussions on a seismic scale. The ominous sequencing and nature of what we’ve been watching unfold is steeped in derangement, and pulls on our every fear about the dark capabilities of man.
Separated by distance and our screens, we can only wonder at what impacts are being hoist on innocent lives, on both sides – the collective unpacking of what it all means seeping into everyone’s daily discussions.
At a business networking event yesterday, it was in reference to this war, with its nuclear connotations, that crystalised a debate we’d been having about corporate responsibilities, and about the world’s sustainability agenda.
Like the ultimate trump card, all possible solutions and interventions to patch up society’s failings and our handling of climate controls, can be swiftly rendered obsolete at the mention of events currently unfolding across Europe.
And still, a bright and intuitive lesson was shared, as our forum closed out, by one of the panelists, an erudite businessman who spoke from the heart about the issue of ‘fatigue’.
On the surface, for someone who has money in the bank and a comfy bed to sleep on, one solution to fatigue, for him and for others alike, is in plain sight. Many millions of people can only fantasize about having access to such “luxury”.
A deeper point he drove home, however, was less about physical exhaustion. It was, instead, more pertinent to a fatigue of the soul.
The disruption caused by the pandemic over the past two years has had far-reaching implications on just about everyone. As each day paints for us another bleak picture of just how much Covid-19 has come to redefine and reframe reality, we are internalising new sets of questions about almost everything.
Impossible, though it may be in practice, I think there are unifying aspects to this from which, perhaps, we can draw.
As this same panelist spoke about his own coming out, as a gay man in the 1980’s, the challenges of which were ever present both in and out of the workplace, he offered the audience an insight into some of the things that had shaped him as a leader.
“Once I was able to feel accepted as who I was, particularly by my peers at work, I was able to give 100% of myself to the job in hand – before that, this was impossible.”
Therein lies a truth that all of us, but especially those of us who are managing others, must never underestimate.
Whilst many employers have policies and practices in place, which might support workers’ rights and protect their safety, how often and how easy it can be to miss the finer details. The tone of an email, the implications of a decision made, perhaps. Or the inequalities that some organisations perpetuate every minute of the day through thoughtlessness and unconscious power plays.
Each example of which can chip away at the spirit and the productivities of those employees who will, always, hold the key to that same organisation’s only truly viable and long term success.
If we are to stand up to those who misuse their power, on any level and in any scenario, then we must show up, consistently, with a different set of tools and approaches.
Diversity and inclusion (favoured parlance of our current times) do not simply manifest because a policy is drawn up. They happen when we break down the essence of what they embody – the ability to empathise, to listen, and to allow others around us to give their 100%.
None of which advice needs to be couched in terms of democracy vs autocracy, nor should these attributes be waved off because of “cultural differences” or “behavioural norms.”
They transcend beyond the connotations of leadership, even, because they are intrinsically bound by one thing only, and one thing only – a respect for being human.