I’m puzzled by the puzzlement over the growing protests across America.
While the media is stumped at how to cover the early days of a post-conventional, web-era movement, exemplified by the Wall Street "live in," we all know what they’re talking about. As one protester’s sign says, “Dear 1%, We Fell Asleep For A While. Just Woke Up. Sincerely, the 99%.”
As a workforce, they have been shuffled around, laid off, rehired, and laid off again. Their benefits have been cut, their healthcare costs have soared, and they’ve had little or no say in what or how the economy is changing. No matter who they’ve voted for, politicians have practiced brinksmanship, posturing, prostitution, greed, and gridlock instead of leadership.
While the protests so far lack consistent messaging, a single leader or group of leaders, or a slick media strategy, with the endorsement of organized labor, they have reached critical mass. And it continues to grow. By the time their messaging and strategy coalesce into coherence, they will cease to be underestimated or dismissed, and that's probably a good thing.
Get used to it: the message to all leaders is clear, and it’s something core to everything I have written on this blog over the last five years, and in my book. If you are putting your individual interests far ahead of any greater good, you will lose. You will fail because you are not exercising good leadership — a trend that won’t be overlooked in the history books.
How do you want to be remembered?
The best conventional leadership thinking and actions have led us to this point, where too many leaders are out for themselves, and not enough are operating for the greater good.
Here are six questions to ask yourself as a leader:
- Is my work helping, neutral, or harmful to others?
- Am I in service, beyond the products and services I offer, to those I lead and the communities in which I do business?
- Am I creating or eliminating jobs in the U.S.?
- Am I making life easier or harder for those I lead, and those in the communities I serve?
- Are we as an organization creating a more sustainable future for everyone, or are we ignoring the future in order to have a more profitable present?
- Is my work making the world a better place, neutral, or actually harming the world in some way?
Watch for any tendency to rationalize. And if you can show a track record of a strong ethical and values-based foundation for your products, services, and how you treat your people, you are in even better shape than many. If you answer those in the best way possible, then you are leading for a greater good. If not, perhaps you have something new to think about, as the protesters are reminding all of us.
The Recovering Leader