The U.S. Presidential Inauguration has come and gone. The Sister Marches around the world have also come and gone. One important question that remains for me is what will we keep marching for? What are those important values that will mobilize us to take leadership in the weeks and months ahead?
Many years ago, I created a definition of leadership that I try to live by every day. The definition is this:
“Leadership is the activity of mobilizing people to work toward a desired future that not only meets people’s needs but elevates them.”
The phrase “desired future” refers to the concept of vision, of something to strive toward. Geoffrey Bellman writes, “Leadership can be seen as energy collected, directed, and released toward a future vision.” Vision is what initiates one’s leadership march as well as what sustains it.
But having any old vision isn’t enough, at least not for me. There are a lot of clear compelling visions that I would run from as fast as I can. So in my definition, I included a phrase borrowed from James McGregor Burns: “…that not only meets people’s needs but elevates them.” Just having a vision isn’t enough; it needs to be a vision that is transcendent, that contributes to the greater good. Hitler had a vision: it was sharp and colorful and convincing to many, many people. Millions died as a result of his vision. While it is important to have a vision, the content of that vision is just as important.
So here’s what I’m going to be marching for in the weeks and months ahead:
- A vision that brings out the best in us.
- A vision that unites us more than it divides us.
- A vision that encourages us to act compassionately as often as we can.
- A vision that equalizes, even elevates, the status of those at risk of being disregarded or overlooked.
- A vision that promotes civility and openness even where there are differences.
Please join me in working toward a desired future that not only meets people’s needs but elevates them!