The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” are very representative of what leaders face every day and at all times in this ever-changing and full of challenge world. Armed only with their passion, values, and principles today’s leaders search for the dream they believe in and fight tirelessly to achieve.
Confidence and consistency of ideals are fundamental for them to achieve influence and inspiration in others for more people to join them in the search for their dream. For years I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my experiences in the private and educational sectors and I’ve asked two questions. Whether they are a freshman in college, graduate student or working professionals the answers are usually similar.
The first question is: What characteristics should a person have in order for others to follow them or view them as a leader? The answer is always a long series of qualities, values, and principles such as honesty, integrity, understanding, vision, inspiration, empathy, etc. All of which would describe an ideal, positive, upright, and optimistic person
The answer to the second question is more important, however. Why do you want such a person to possess these characteristics and qualities? The answers are usually reduced to guiding, nurturing, making them feel safe, helping them grow, and providing safety. This exercise and its answers have been consistent over the years, at least in the last decade I’ve been doing it.
Times of uncertainty and contingency separate the real leaders from those who simply claim to be ones. These times are also a source of new leaders, creativity, and imagination as well as humanity. The more confident a leader is, the stronger their leadership will be. The passion they show for that which they seek and consistency of their actions to their values and guiding principles, the more others are inspired to follow them. Without consistency, the bond of trust is broken and without trust, there is no leadership.
All leaders, no matter what kind; educational, entrepreneurial, religious, or any other, owe their strength to their following, their community, their investors, their consumers, the people and the environment that surrounds them. That is, they’re interdependent of all those around them and their community in order to achieve their dreams. If the leader doesn’t serve the community and their collaborators the success of their dream or vision is doomed to failure. In the end, a leader’s influence is used to serve others by providing a safe environment where their collaborators and community can thrive. Their success will be the leader’s success. Only a heart can light up other hearts. That’s why leadership gurus always say you should always lead from the heart.
Our current contingency offers an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen and favor the emergence of new leaders. It provides a space in time to strengthen values and principles and prove consistency in their actions and increase the bond with their collaborators and community by providing uncertainty and guidance through the storm and showing their preparedness for new challenges and become the rainbow that shows that the sun always returns.
That is a leader’s responsibility. Those who understand it will emerge stronger than ever, those who don’t will surely lose confidence and strength in their community and collaborators. Some of these leaderships will perish.
There is no excuse for a true leader to do the right thing. No matter there was, or wasn’t, and answer by those who should have lead. You must do the right thing. That is what the community expects. It needs to be protected and guided because in it, leaders coexist and it is together that they will emerge stronger and be able to face the new challenges and opportunities that are presented.
It was wonderful to see the spectacle of Italian communities that got together and organized through media and came out to their balconies and sang in unison, building to building, neighborhood to neighborhood as one voice proving that they are not alone, they are together and together they will come out on top.
Let’s reflect on the opportunity this contingency offers to revive our principles and values, friendship, love, and kindness. Life is wonderful and we have to live it fully and every day where we can touch someone’s heart and help them be happy.
I’d like to close with another quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”
By: Raúl Rodríguez
Professor of Leadership
Continuing Education, CETYS Universidad