I am not a political person. When the team in the Chorus Executive office start talking about politics I tend to tune out. I have never been overly involved in politics, it has never been my passion. However, in the last few months – since January 21 of this year, to be exact – I have found myself reacting to the actions of politicians both here and overseas.
We don’t need to look too far to see that many people are unhappy. It is reflected in decisions like Brexit, in Trump’s election and in the resurrection of Pauline Hanson in Australian politics. We see it every day in our conversations with candidates and clients. People feel disconnected and disenfranchised, and there is a general feeling of distrust for governments and corporations. It is quickly becoming the era of ‘dis’.
There is a great deal of negativity in the world and it is easy to get swept along in the negativity and anger.
However, as leaders, we need to rise above the noise. Now, more than ever, great leadership is needed. Not just from our politicians or our CEOs. All of us need to be leaders, in business and in the community, within our families and amongst our friends. We need to lead by example when those around us are failing to lead. We need to focus on building connections, trust and community.
So, what do I believe makes a great leader?
People can be duplicitous, particularly in business. We all hate flip-flopping politicians who say whatever they think their audience wants to hear. Strong leaders act with honesty and authenticity. Live your values, whether these are the values your organisation stands for, the values you are teaching your children or your own personal values. Even if people disagree with you, they will respect that you have the courage of your convictions.
Clear communication is fundamental to being reliable. Do what you say you will do. Mean what you say. Being someone others can depend upon is a great quality for anyone to possess, but it is especially important for leaders. Everyone wants reliable people in their lives – investors, employers, leaders, friends, family, children.
Empathetic leaders are good listeners who don’t judge and who are emotionally intelligent. Empathy builds trust. Your team will feel they can trust you when you listen without judgement and acknowledge their feelings, an approach that also works well with children, as it opens the lines of communication and inspires confidence.
We all want feel a sense of belonging. Fostering a workplace, home or community that embraces diversity and inclusiveness can help to provide that sense of belonging to people. From an economic perspective, diversity and inclusiveness have been proven to increase productivity and improve outcomes. Welcome diversity: diversity of cultures, ages, ideas, of all kinds. Challenge conscious and unconscious biases, both your own and those of others around you. Be open to new and different ideas – none of us has all the answers, and a great leader knows this.
When the problems of the world seem insurmountable, it is easy to sit back and say, ‘What can I do? I am just one person.’ I say, be positive when you’re enveloped by negativity. Step up and be a leader! If more of us choose to lead with integrity, passion and empathy, if more of us welcome diversity and encourage an open exchange of ideas, even when they are different from our own, if more of us lead by example with our families, friends, communities, teams and companies, and if more of us lead in the same way we want the country and the world to be led, then maybe, just maybe, we will affect the change we want to see.