If Homer would be here today, he might have been busy writing the Iliad of the modern era. Like the olden times, the villages and cities communing together to celebrate the victory after a long and arduous battle. As the church bells chimed in Paris and the fireworks lit the sky, the virus was forgotten for a brief moment. It made me contemplate and reflect on this event. What was this event that brought the world together for these brief moments of relief and celebration?
There aren’t any answers but I wanted to pen down my thoughts as a record in this moment of truth for the greatest democracy. It almost felt like the world was healing. I’m not here to carry out a political or intellectual discourse. I’m keen to understand the human element in the whole process of falling and victory.
What do you and I want from the modern-day leader? Be it social, political, or professional, the answer wouldn’t be any different.
From hunter-gatherers to citizens of the 21st century, our needs have evolved to adapt to our times. Most of us want to look up to leaders who can lead organizations and countries with integrity, empathy, and kindness apart from the social and economic intelligence that one needs to hold an accountable role. Humans flourish in environments that are based on empathy, equality, and respect. The days of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, and so on are no longer acceptable to the present generations.
The topic of democracy and its fragile balance will need an entire blog. I don’t want to focus on the failures today but I had one question in my mind. If there could be civility, respect, and action towards some of the key issues, would it have changed the worldview?
There are a few things that stood out for me from the incoming leaders. Both President-Elect Biden and VP Elect Kamala Harris displayed an enormous amount of empathy and kindness throughout the whole journey. It is a herculean task to run for office in the public eye when each and every move of yours is being dissected by the prying eyes of media, citizens, and your opponents. They did a wonderful job of holding their heads high while wading through the deep murky waters of political warfare. His brief speech before the results was announced encompassed all the softer virtues that a leader needs to exhibit in such times.
Their work and life experiences have played a formative role in the leaders that they have chosen to become today. As an outside observer, most of us have limited access to their ways of working. We are privy to their public behavior and policy-driven outcomes that shape our perceptions. Having watched both of them deliver some of the powerful speeches and act gracefully during these times made me reflect on some of the core values of leadership. These are permissible evidence for the public which helps build faith and trust.
The chariot of leadership in my personal view is best driven with the below wheels:
Acknowledging the Challenge :
Leaders have no easy job on their hands. There is always a situation or challenge that is present or in the offing. As a leader, to acknowledge the situation is the first step towards solving the problems. The pitfalls of non-acknowledgment are deep. Biden in his address touched upon it during his brief speech. The issues are far from over but this was a start.
“I know how deep and hard the opposing views are in our country on so many things. But I also know this as well. To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies. We are not enemies. What brings us together as Americans are so much stronger than anything that can tear us apart. “
As one climbs the ladder of power and influence, it can be easy to get allured and lost in the glamour of such high positions. As Confucius says, humility is the foundation of all your virtues. This reflected in the acceptance that the presidency is an office for the people, elected by the people.
“The presidency itself is not a partisan institution. It’s the one office in this nation that represents everyone and it demands a duty of care for all Americans. That is precisely what I will do. I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as I will for those who did vote for me.”
Courage with a heart :
If as a leader one has to drive change of any order, one needs to be bold and full of courage. Be it digital transformation or changing the healthcare policy of a nation, it requires a strong vision and voice. Leaders have to stand up against conformity on many occasions to bring in a new wave. This is reflective of these lines from Biden’s speech.
“We the people will not be silenced. We the people will not be bullied. We the people will not surrender. My friends, I’m confident we’ll emerge victorious. But this will not be my victory alone or our victory alone. It’ll be a victory for the American people, for our democracy, for America. And there will be no blue states and red states when we win, just the United States of America, God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you.”
Empathy for one and all :
Empathy, the golden syrup that makes leadership sweet and authentic. It is the most vital competency in leadership. It means that one has the ability and awareness to understand the feelings and needs of others. There are times while leading an organization when teams are divided about a certain topic or project. The leader has to steer through the change with empathy. Personally, for me, the leaders who inspire me were the ones who were empathetic, engaged, and personal. This excerpt from a recent podcast Unlocking Us with Brene Brown says it all.
“Leadership, at its core, in my view, is about being personal. It’s about being engaged. It’s about trying to put… You always put yourself in the other person’s position, and then also to understand where they’re coming from, whether it’s a major foreign leader or a friend with who you have a disagreement. And it’s also being willing to share credit, give recognition, and share in the benefits as well as in the losses if you’re in an endeavor together.
Kindness is the Core :
As someone who truly believes and advocates kindness through my personal initiative of The Gentle Project. The importance and benefits of kindness in leadership have been a topic of research and discussion for many years now. Kindness encompasses many different elements together. It is being authentic, warm, transparent, and emotionally intelligent among other behaviors that are at play. It is intentional leadership where one can still make tough decisions and make bold moves with authenticity and kindness. Kindness is contagious. Kindness as Donna Cameron mentioned in my recent podcast is about the micro acts that have the capacity and power to change the course and nature of an organization, community, and society.
I loved the response to the question that Brene Brown asked him on the podcast.
“What do you think your parents would have thought about where we are right now and how shaming and just unkind people are?”
Yeah, because it’s those little, those thousand little acts of kindness that can change where we are now. When everybody tells me, “How do we unify the country?” I say, “Start off by thinking about how you treat other people.” When there’s a snowstorm and the older lady lives next door to you, she can’t afford to shovel her sidewalk, go shovel the sidewalk. Go shovel the sidewalk, it’s no big deal. Just a little, tiny things that bring people together, that make people realize, “Woah, I guess I matter. I guess I care.” Or when I always say to people when they say, “We’ll never be able to pull things together,” and I point out to them, I said, “When’s the last time you thanked somebody? When was the last time when you went to the supermarket and you had to get something back in the stock room, someone went back, and you said, ‘Really, thank you so much for doing that for me.’”
Diversity in Action :
This is perhaps the best example of diversity in action. My ramblings will not be complete if I don’t give a shout out to Kamala Debbie Harris, the leader who many of us look towards today for inspiration and grit. A huge glass ceiling has been shattered today. The result is a testimony that these audacious goals are attainable for women. The confidence and grace that Ms.Harris exudes is something that a lot of us can look up to and learn. Being a woman in leadership is challenging due to biases and other influencing factors. This reminds me of the song “Ain’t no mountain high enough”.
As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the gender diversity ratios across the globe, this is a reminder for everyone that there is still work to be done in organizations and our societies for women.
The leadership will face the litmus test when they resume office but their handling of the run-up journey was full of dignity. It will not be an easy road ahead but they have taken their first step in establishing the emotional connection with large sections of society in the process. The complexity that accompanies capitalist democracy is multifold. The road to the idyllic dream of equal access to rights, healthcare, and opportunity is still a long way ahead and challenging.
But here to more empathy, kindness, and grace in the most powerful office of influence where the world, organizations, and people will be looking to learn and grow.
PS: These are my personal opinions and a record for me to reflect back in time when I am older :)
Brene Brown Unlocking Us Podcast — https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-joe-biden-on-empathy-unity-and-courage/