Greg Hull: Leading with a visionBrowse any bookstore these days, and it seems hard to miss one topic. There seem to be no end of books each week on the topic — so much so that most bookstores have entire sections dedicated to it.
By: Greg Hull, Lake County News Chronicle
Browse any bookstore these days, and it seems hard to miss one topic. There seem to be no end of books each week on the topic — so much so that most bookstores have entire sections dedicated to it. Radio programs discuss the subject, schools trumpet their training in this area, and forums are held to discuss it.
It’s the subject of leadership.
For the fun of it, I did a title search at a large online book distributor for the word. I got more than 10,000 hits. Everybody’s a Leader. The Secrets to being a Successful Leader. Raising the Next Generation of Leaders. The titles of the books, articles and speeches start to run together after a while. For the fun of it, I then searched for “servant”. I got 72 hits. Fifty-one of those had some variation of “leader” in the title.
Sometimes I wonder if the people speaking on the topic are all reading the same books, and the authors are the folks attending the seminars held at the schools.
It is a vital question, of course: What makes someone a good leader? Who are the truly great leaders? These, of course, are not abstract questions, but those that have significant implications in our own time and lives. This affects not only our nation, but our local community. Especially since the 2010 campaign season has already begun.
Many of the authors and speakers talk at length about the fact every leader needs a vision, that grand mental picture of what might be. As Solomon noted, without a vision, the people perish.
Yet not all visions are created equal. Hitler, Stalin and Mao all had grand visions. All were effective leaders. I wouldn’t want to have lived under any of them. Nor would you.
The vision must be built upon some bedrock, fundamental principles; values that one does not compromise, either in private and personal life, or in the pursuit of public office. In looking over the relentless parade of “pro-family, pro-marriage” (mostly) Republican politicians who have had zipper problems of late, one gets the sense that their “vision” was not based upon personal values, but were more the expression of a political agenda carefully crafted to appeal to special voting blocks.
Lacking such bedrock values in a person’s life, one will, in the words of Malcom Muggeridge, be reduced to one of two things: either the pursuit of power for its own sake, or the pursuit of pleasure.
The fundamental goal of leadership, at whatever level, ought to be making other people’s lives better. It isn’t the consolidation of power for powers’ sake, nor is it the feathering of one’s own personal nest, or the nest of key people. From parenting to pastoring, from to neighborhood to nation, from business to community, leaders need to be concerned about others. Not merely their supporters or constituents, but everyone.
“Better”, of course, does not necessarily translate to easier, or more comfortable. Sometimes harder in the short run is better in the long run. The answer to the question of “what is better” is a function of those bedrock principles of life. Without some serious thought given to them, “better” merely devolves into “more fun”
The vision needs to be long range. It needs to reach beyond the next election cycle, or one’s personal career possibilities. Although it’s old history, this is where I think Jesse Ventura went wrong. While he talked an enticing line about needing change in how government works, his long-term vision only encompassed Jesse. An opportunity for significant change was lost, and we went back to the status quo. It is this lack of long-term vision as well as an understanding of what we mean by better that results in a nearly $12 trillion dollar debt nationally, and statewide a failure for the Legislature and governor to agree on a budget, and a local attitude that too often seems to be keeping everything the same.
I would argue that a vision for a better life for folks includes instilling values of self-reliance rather than dependence upon government. “Better” involves opportunity for everyone to try to achieve personal goals, including the freedom to fail, and then try again. Better includes being productive, in the sense of creating and producing goods or services or knowledge that add to the standard of living of the community at large. Better is not living for mere personal enjoyment, but for improving the lives of those around us. Better is not being concerned with who gets the credit, but enjoying the satisfaction that comes with seeing others succeed.
A leader with a positive vision built upon those types of principles is one I think most of us would love to get behind, and need to get behind — regardless of which books they read.
Greg Hull is a owner and operator of Hull’s Sawmill. He believes everyone’s life is made better by working for a few months stacking lumber at a sawmill. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org