By John Maxwell
On my podcast this week, I shared something with Mark Cole and our listeners that I don’t often share publicly. As I look around at our world today, there’s a certain feeling that comes over me, one that I don’t experience often, and I can’t help but bring it to you as we talk about the need for leaders who build bridges.
That feeling is “leadership sadness.” Given the struggles that our world is going through right now, it saddens me to see men and women in leadership positions and roles who choose to lead by pushing people apart rather than by bringing them together. I see too many leaders leaning into the things that separate us, stoking fear over hope, or leaders who simply shrink back from the moment and allow the darkness to swallow them instead of lighting candle to fight it.
This is a time of darkness. But there is reason for incredible hope.
We have the tools necessary to turn this moment into an opportunity that helps change the world around us. We need are leaders who believe that, leaders who learn and live good values in order to lift the people around them. We need leaders who will step to the forefront of the moment and say, with passion and enthusiasm, “If you knew what I know…” and then proceed to offer words and actions that inspire and ignite hope.
So how can you and I be that kind of leader? How can we step into this moment and be a difference maker instead of a division maker?
Here are four signs of a leader of hope:
They Dig for Gold While Others Dig for Dirt
This is an easy one to tackle, especially during a presidential election year. We’re often surrounded by attack ads and smear campaigns that seek to bring out the worst about a potential elected leader, and illustrate how things will only get darker if they’re elected. It’s a race to the bottom where no one wins. Divisive leaders aren’t afraid to tear things down and allow fear to run freely.
On the contrary, leaders of hope go looking for what’s good in others and in the situation around them. They believe the best of people and believe the best of our future. Leaders of hope inspire others to seek out what’s true, noble, good, praiseworthy, and inspiring. They paint a picture of a more brilliant tomorrow that everyone can see themselves in.
They Live Out Good Values While Others Live Out Emotions
This may come across a little harsh, as emotions are something everyone must wrestle. But while we all feel various emotions, divisive leaders put emotion at the center of their leadership, creating instability and uncertainty that only amplifies the chaos around them. When leaders lead from a place of emotion, they are at the mercy of those emotions changing—for better or worse—and so are the people they lead.
Leaders of hope, however, lead from a place of good values, and good values never change. They are good across time and circumstance, and provide a stable foundation for discussion, planning, and decision making. Because values are as true tomorrow as they are today, they provide a consistency for those who follow, and create a sense of confidence amid chaos.
They Build Bridges While Others Burn Them
This may sound hyperbolic, but divisive leaders aren’t the least bit afraid of sacrificing relationships for their agenda. They will gladly burn down a bridge to one audience if it means creating a connection with a newer, more attractive audience that can help them now. As a result, they create an atmosphere of disloyalty and mistrust which only increases the sense of uncertainty and chaos that their followers must battle.
This is not how leaders of hope operate. Leaders of hope continually build bridges to new people without burning any bridges from their past. They understand that relationships are the key to achieving great things, and nurturing those relationships is part of the work that good leaders do. Leaders of hope will find new and creative ways to reach not only audiences who agree with their message, but audiences who aspire to their vision.
They Tell the Truth While Others Manipulate It
If you’ve heard the term “fake news” once, you’ve heard it a thousand times, and with good reason: people are struggling to know who to trust when it comes to finding out the truth about what’s going on in the world. Divisive leaders take advantage of this situation by manipulating truth to their advantage—leveraging half-truths, or only telling certain sides of a story that make them look good. Sometimes, they hide their mistruths behind the falsehoods of others; they point out the lies that others tell in order to hide their own. It further disintegrates the trust of those who follow and deepens the darkness.
Leaders of hope stand on the truth. They bring facts and reality into the clear light of day and present it to their people for consideration, reflection and discussion. They don’t gloss over uncomfortable truths or attempt to hide past mistakes. Instead they lead the way by addressing issues openly and honestly with an eye towards doing right instead of being right. As a result, they model a hopeful way forward for their followers and restore belief in the truth and its power to affect positive change.
We need leaders of hope. We need men and women who aren’t optimistic about the future—passively longing for a better to eventually reveal itself—we need men and women who are hopeful about the future and actively seeking ways to bring it to pass. We need leaders who will rise above the darkness and light the way to a better tomorrow.
Does that sound like you? Do you want it to sound like you? Then the four actions outlined in today’s blog will put you on the right track. I encourage you to follow it.
Because we need you.