This past Monday, our country celebrated a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and his work on the advancement of civil rights based on nonviolent civil disobedience. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches, which was a series of protests in Alabama to demonstrate the desire of African-Americans to exercise their constitutional right to vote. These marches helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
In one of the most famous speeches in American history, Dr. King said, “I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream—0ne day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Fifty years later, our country is vastly different and more progressive than it was during the civil rights movement. However, our country is still plagued with racism, sexism, and classism.
This week, I was able to attend SGR’s Creating a Learning Organization Conference on Trust-Building Strategies to Inspire Committed Teams. During the introduction for the conference, Ron Holifield, CEO for SGR, said, “It is difficult to build trust if you don’t understand the other person. People have a different frame of reference and different life experiences than I do…but, you cannot build trust without a basic understanding.”
Our organizations and our communities are comprised of people from all different “walks of life.” From different races, different socio-economic backgrounds, different religions, our backgrounds are all unique. Not everyone had happy and healthy childhoods. Not everyone has plenty of food and clothes. Not everyone knows when the next paycheck is coming. So, what may be normal for someone is completely abnormal for someone else. Yet, these differences comprise our organizations, our communities, and our country. We need to embrace these differences and build trust around them.
At the conference, Jennifer Fadden, city manager for the City of Colleyville, said, “People support what they help create.” As local government leaders, it is our responsibility to remember that our government was created by the people and for the people. All of the people.
To do so, ask yourself, do the policy makers in your community represent the statistics in your community? While this may be an election issue, you can review the application process for appointed positions to see if you can reach other socioeconomic groups. Additionally, are you asking your community for assistance in making local government decisions? It can be as simple as focus groups with children and parents for the re-design of playground equipment or as complex as a community-wide, multifaceted process for updating the community’s master plan.
Internally, are you asking for assistance in developing employee benefits? Do you know what problems your employees encounter using your health insurance? Are you using teams to make decisions? Cross-functional teams can be an intentional means of raising the bar on strategy. If you are addressing a customer service problem or creating a capital plan process, team members from different departments, at different levels in the organization can build a plan in which the organization supports—because they helped to build it.
You have an opportunity to build trust—in your organization and in your community. Racism, sexism, and classism will not disappear overnight, but use your leadership every day to continue the progress of ensuring our government is for the people.
“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. IF you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Executive Search Manager
“Leadership”. Few topics have so many experts offering so much advice with so little actual impact!
It would take years to read all of the books on leadership currently on the shelves of your local Barnes and Noble. And yet, the lack of effective leadership continues to mire far too many organizations in the tar pit of mediocrity.
Yesterday, I engaged in a thought-provoking conversation with one of my authentic role models on the type of leadership required to create a dynamic and satisfying environment in which team members find a high-degree of job satisfaction and, as a result, perform at their highest levels. The insights I gained from this thought-provoking conversation are worth sharing.
- Great leaders are not afraid to make themselves vulnerable.
This is so counter-intuitive to our normal human inclinations. We tend to protect, conceal, and hide our shortcomings and limitations. We are afraid that if anyone knows we have a weakness, they will not respect us, they will not trust us, they will not like us, and they will not follow us. In reality, just the opposite is true. When a leader finally develops the courage to acknowledge their shortcomings, no one who works with them is surprised — they already could see the shortcomings and knew that the leader was hiding from those shortcomings! Vulnerability demonstrates strength (not weakness) and builds trust (not doubt). Leadership built on a foundation of anything other than trust is doomed to fail.
- Great leaders are confidence builders.
After a leader has earned the trust of their team, the leader must make the team trust and believe in itself (both individually and collectively). Achieving great things can only be achieved once your team truly believes they are capable of achieving great things. The greatest obstacle is not a lack of training, know-how, education, money, staffing, or political support — it is a lack of confidence that the vision is achievable. Great leaders know how to build the confidence of their team that they can accomplish amazing things.
- Great leaders are dream enablers.
The vast majority of your team members are motivated first and foremost by the desire to know they are making a difference in what they do. I absolutely love the description of the leader as a dream enabler. Few things are as exciting and satisfying as leading a team as they translate their individual and collective dreams and visions into a reality that makes a huge difference in the world. A leader who can align organizational goals that make a difference with the dreams of their team members will have captured lightening in a bottle… and amazing things will happen.
Build trust with your team by being strong enough to make yourself vulnerable; build confidence in your team that they are capable of achieving great things; and enable your team to make their dreams and visions a reality, and you will leave a lasting legacy as a great leader!