In recent years, with our 24-hour news cycle and the advances in social media, all of us have witnessed disappointing leadership behavior on many fronts. For some, lives have been deeply impacted by it. It does seem we are overdue for an overhaul of the standard of conduct for leaders at all levels of business, government, and society. The twenty-first century brought with it a reality that has changed the whole landscape of leadership --- regardless of our position or status, we all have opportunities to lead every day by our example. Technology has also made it possible for leadership to be as local as our cell phones and as far-reaching as technology will take us around the world. With all the issues needing our attention, opting out really isn't a responsible option, is it? To create a better world, it is clear we all own our part of it.
So, how do we begin to renew, revitalize, and recommit ourselves to standards of conduct as leaders in our own right --- so we are ready to respond to the needs and challenges of this new time --- as well as to the people within our spans of influence in the marketplaces, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities where we live and work?
In considering this question, I immediately thought about Gandhi as a great study and role model. He believed in self-examination and analysis of one's behavior and actions. He did it often. In a cherished book, A Higher Standard of Leadership: Lessons from the Life of Gandhi (Berrett-Koehler 1997), the author Keshavan Nair writes about Gandhi:
"Gandhi demonstrated that personal reflection was a practical endeavor... He analyzed his actions in the weeklies he edited...and in his correspondence with colleagues. None of these time-consuming activities diminished the amount of work he put in; indeed, they sustained him. It is not necessary for us to emulate Gandhi's level of reflection, but we can benefit from the direction he set for himself. ...Disciplined reflection does not take time away from work; it sustains the spirit and increases the intensity and quality of work."
Ongoing Self-REFLECTION IDEA:
We all have to find our own ways to renew ourselves. I share one of mine with you...
In several places in my home, I have small framed signs with one of Gandhi's messages strategically placed to catch my eye during the day, "My life is my message." It is interesting how those five words have shaped so many days --- so many actions --- so many decisions. They place the question of rightness to every action and decision. It is humbling on many days to realize that my humanness has kept me from living up to this proclamation in the way I wished I had.
The Story Behind GANDHI's Words
The story goes like this...
Gandhi remained silent one day a week. He was traveling on a train on the one day a week when he did not speak. When the train made a stop, a journalist rushed up to his window, screaming out to him, "Do you have a message for me to take back to my people." Gandhi scrawled a few words on a piece of paper and put them up in the window... "My life is my message."
Over the years I've thought about the commitment this self-imposed standard demands. I've imagined each of us measuring our behavior by it every day with a new kind of consciousness about all we do --- we could change the world in short order, don't you think? How many things would be different throughout the world? Think about it.
In my book, Putting Our Differences to Work, I recount Gandhi's warning to us about the traits that are the most perilous to humanity. We could reverse the realities he warned us about with a collective change in how we think, behave, and operate and by measuring our behavior and actions against the higher standard of leadership he established. Think of it...below I've restated Gandhi's warnings in the affirmative as QUALITIES. Imagine the impact of each of us living up to these QUALITIES:
- Wealth with Work
- Pleasure with Conscience
- Science with Humanity
- Knowledge with Character
- Politics with Principle
- Commerce with Morality
- Worship with Sacrifice
How does your life contribute to fulfilling these virtues?
I leave you as I reconsider this question myself.
Putting Our Differences to Work
The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership and High Performance
** 2010 Axiom Business Book Award Winner **
Bronze for HR/Employee Training
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