Years ago, I had an interview at Arthur Andersen. I’m convinced it was my response to one specific question that resulted in my failure to land the job. I was asked, “describe your role as a leader.” I think the interviewer was looking for a take-charge, gung-ho response. I still recall her sour expression when I said, “if a team is being led well then I’ll support that leader, but if that’s not happening, I’d need to step in.” I could see she was underwhelmed with what must have seemed a very passive response. I didn’t get the job, but I did receive something far more valuable – clarity.
This day I see a gap in leadership. It’s hard for me to get past the lack of ethics that have been on display. They have not only been disregarded, they have been trampled. If I were to have a daughter whose crotch was groped by an old, wealthy, stranger, would I give any support to that stranger? Would it be any different if this were not my daughter but someone else’s ? And how much would I dial back on my emotions if that stranger ‘only’ bragged about groping, but where I had no evidence that it had taken place. Would I say, “it’s ok as long as our taxes are lower”? Or what if this was the person who you felt could finally put a roof over your head… for your family? Where is the line, because we all have our ethical lines and most of us know that ethics is not a binary world. It can be hard to hold to them sometimes. But we should try, and this day I don’t see enough trying, and I don’t see enough contrition when we fail.
This day I see a gap in leadership. A leader is someone from whom we can draw inspiration; they set an example. Curiously, and disturbingly, I am inspired. I see that you need to connect with people’s hearts. I hear the value in a simple message. I appreciate that with supreme focus and dedication, you can achieve your goals, even if others deem you unqualified. I’m impressed when a person holds their course, regardless of what others might think. And then there is the hard work… a LOT of hard work.
I also see how to win. I see that winning is easier when your mindset is simply to “take the hill” while your competitor is also burdening themselves with how to hold it afterwards; the salesman promises, and then worries about delivery later.
These lessons – I’d go so far as to call them ‘positives’ – are insufficient, for me at least. They are not nearly enough because I can’t justify away those things that are important. We want to point to a leader when we speak to children and say, “That is a role model for you: be kind, be honest, study hard, don’t be a bully…”
Today is the day I stop being so passive. I realise now that I’ve been neglecting my responsibilities as a leader. I will go slower than I’d like to begin with because I’m using muscles I’ve shamefully allowed to atrophy. Please be kind and please feel free to join me, because if I see someone else doing a good job, I’ll support them. But this day there is a gap in leadership, and it’s not going to fill itself.