Over the past few months I’ve had several opportunities to visit with groups of people whose lives are being impacted by policies they don’t like or agree with.
Most of them have communicated their concerns with the first level key stakeholder – hoping for a fast change. Now it’s clear that although that person cares, change can’t happen from that level.
So individually some of them have:
- Sent one email to the decision maker.
- Sent more than one email to the decision maker.
- Sent one email and attended one meeting.
Collectively their over-riding belief is that the key-stakeholder can’t be trusted and change just isn’t going to happen.
So most have stopped communicating while others never bothered to communicate directly with the one person that can make change happen.
At the same time, they are still so troubled by the situation that each time the topic comes up, almost all of them continue to express lots of frustration and absorb the not so positive energy of those around them.
So why persist?
I was leading a small team in a culturally diverse city in the U.S. when two of my employees asked why all the titled leaders on our leadership team were white.
I was raised in a part of the country that was not culturally diverse, today – nearly a decade after their question 89% of the population in my home state is white and 95% of the county that surrounded the town I grew up in was white. As a result, it was a question I didn’t see coming and one I did not have a good answer for.
Years ago I read a book called The Dream Giver.
It’s a beautiful little book that emphasizes that each one of us is born for a purpose. As children we often see this as our big dream. Often between childhood and adulthood we forget the dream or walk away from it because it seems impossible. And then one day we are reminded of the dream again and we make the choice to pursue the dream or to let it die forever. Then the book helps you anticipate and prepare for the challenges you will encounter as you journey from where you are to where that dream is.
I purchased the book in 2003 shortly after it was published, simply because I liked the author. As soon as I opened it I was hooked, because I had a dream as a child. It was a dream that I forgot all about as life happened. And then in 1999, I it came back full force. In 2001, I took my first very clear step toward the dream.
Since 2003, I’ve referred to that book several times a year. It’s highlighted, filled with notes, scribbles and pages that are bent back. In October 2010 I referred to it constantly as I launched a new consulting business in a city I had never lived in and knew no one but my husband.
In November 2012 just as my new business was gaining momentum, my husband was asked to accept a position a half a world away, and this quote from the book filled my mind…
Several years ago I was asked to serve on a Board that was responsible for overseeing resources from the federal, state and local area.
To learn more, I did a lot of research and then decided to drive to the locations that provided those services.
I found the first location with no problem.
But when I followed my GPS to the second location. I found a police station. Then drove up and down the street and around in circles.
I tried to call but a recording made it impossible to reach a live person. …When I finally asked a police officer, he had no idea where the place was.
Eventually I drove down a little alley. Parked my car and walked into a building – that was right next door to the police station, with old lettering on it that read, “Community Center”. Inside a bunch of cubicles filled a large area that had at one time been used for community gatherings.
It was indeed the location I was looking for.
Yesterday I felt a strong urge to clearly articulate what Character-Based Leadership means to me.
As I wrote it I thought of:
- Leaders that create beautiful symphonies by unleashing the differences and strengths of others.
- Leader that inspire us all to lead at a higher level.
- Leadership decisions that make my blood boil.
- People I am currently serving and people I’ve served.
- Times I’ve led well, and times I’ve failed.
- All that I am and all that I hope to be…