Great leaders are lifelong learners and coaches. They set the tone for how people will work together. They visibly learn and grow in the face of challenges. They play on the edge of chaos, making sense for others in conversations for critical change – showing us the way forward.
The world is looking for great leaders to emerge now. As we wind down political seasons and elections throughout the globe, we have witnessed divisive, even abusive language. Instead of experiencing the spirit of mutual gain and differentiated philosophies and platforms, we have witnessed a display of mean behaviors, leaving even strong business and community leaders exhausted, disheartened and afraid for our collective future. I have been mystified lately as I watch those applying for the most powerful leadership roles in the world and wonder, “What will we say to our grandchildren about what we learned and how we led in these times?”
Maybe we need rituals.
Aboriginal stories and rituals often inspire me, and I was reminded in reading pages of inspiration today of the Babemba tribe community rituals. This tribe has a unique solution to deal with societal transgressions. When a member of the tribe acts irresponsibly or unjustly, they are seated in the center of the village alone. All work stops, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Each member of the tribe then takes turns reminding the transgressor of all the good things they have done for other members of the community. There is only one rule: No one can tell anything that is not true. No one is allowed to fabricate, exaggerate or be facetious about the transgressor’s accomplishments or personality. They speak of every contribution, every experience that can be recalled with detail and accuracy. They speak as orators, loudly proclaiming the transgressor’s talents and gifts. The ceremony continues until everyone runs out of positive things to say about the person in the center of the circle. At the end of the ceremony, the circle is broken, and a joyous celebration takes place. The person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.
We are collectively longing for best practices and conscious leaders to rise up. We need new leaders in public and civic leadership roles, just as we do for our businesses (and sometimes those are the same – business leaders become our civic leaders on chamber boards and in other ways). It is increasingly apparent to our children, who are disheartened that their families, communities and friends are divided and afraid to engage in meaningful dialogues. They feel betrayed by us, those they see in leadership roles, and we must change that experience, not only for them, but for us.
At the end of the day, humanity at large has the same core value: We want to make a significant contribution somewhere. The best leaders seek to unleash these contributions – the brilliance within their teams and larger organizations. In order to do that, the focus has to shift away from this mean political game to seek out more meaningful dialogue and solutions to humanity’s dynamic challenges. That begins with a simple communication about our common value to be of service.
If you are breathless and disheartened, or lead and coach others who are, try these five tips:
- Manage your inheritance: Love those people who are looking to you for guidance today.
- Be curious: Learn something from others and about yourself.
- If you feel exhausted in the aftermath of recent elections, remember that there is a system of checks and balances. Get involved, and take a leadership role in your local community.
- Notice what others get right and do in service to others at every level, and call it to their attention.
- Learn from your competitors. In the end, competition makes us stronger. At its root, com-petition simply means coming together to request recognition – to petition each other’s best.
Recall for a moment those times that you were the transgressor. Imagine what it might have been like to be seated in the middle of a circle, and instead of being shamed, being reminded of your contributions to others – being reminded of you when you were at your best. Have you taken stock of how you make a positive difference in bringing out the best in others through your own presence and language these days?