The madness of this year, 2020, has revealed an acute need for leadership. Great leaders recognize that certain leadership qualities are being tested now like never before, and the strength of the following qualities will have extraordinary impact far beyond the direct setting in which one currently leads:
Seeking truth. Leaders recognize that fair discussion and debate is vital to truth. Any truth, anywhere, among anyone. They know freedom rests on truth, and so does unity and peace. “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” ― George Orwell. They are honest with themselves and others, even when the truth is disappointing. They are a truth seeker, not a defender of self or ideological positions. They cultivate intellectual honesty, and welcome thoughtful disagreement. They counter false-narratives and spin designed to fool the naïve.
Encouraging diversity. They commit to diversity and equality, including diversity of thought and one’s political affiliation. They stand against cancel-culture and censorship, calling them out as the poisons they are. They foster truly inclusive discussion and debate to achieve the very best ideas and solutions. They reject narcissism, which is at the root of those who believe their version of facts and comprehension are the absolute truth and thus resist as invalid any debate or contrary opinion.
Exercising professional skepticism. They recognize that traditional journalistic media is no longer the virtuous independent check on power it was for two centuries, and that social media is only now revealing its significant perils. They listen well to various news avenues, balancing and evaluating, knowing the true reality is often somewhere in between. They rise above the media echo chambers, tailored to what those specific audiences want to hear and used to manipulate public opinion. They are wise to what is reported, and what is omitted.
Standing as Americans. They remember what it means to be an American and the sacrifices of so many to provide it. They recall that only united do we stand, enjoying freedoms and opportunities unlike any other country. An America imperfect, because people are imperfect, but ever evolving towards a more perfect union. They know that without any “we,” a country cannot long stand and will lose everything. They recognize that upon any honest examination there is far more to celebrate and unite us as Americans than divide us, and astutely see that divisiveness has been intentionally fueled by politicians and media for unsavory purposes. They understand this divisiveness insidiously impacts work and home life, colleagues and friends and family—our very peace and societal stability.
Imparting wisdom. They display wisdom, which is neither intellect nor competency but more highly evolved and hard-earned through the trials and bumps of experience. Wisdom gives them the ability to display poise, and foster calmness in the face of chaos. It allows them to rise above it all with perspective, revealing the true picture and sense of trajectory of things. Wisdom guides them to thoughtfully comprehend, and to act with a measured voice of reason. It powers their ability to rescue others from the quicksand of heated myopia. It enables them to cut through the chaos, through the alleged facts and figures and slants and soundbites. Wisdom sharpens perspective for balancing facts into fair outlook and placing problems into honest context.
Displaying courage. They stand against groupthink, understanding the critical importance of free and independent thought. They actively defend truth and expose manipulation for what it is. Their courage fuels strength of character to resist bully-silencing tactics and to do what’s right even when unpopular or risky. They are realistic, but keep fear in check. They operate from a spirit of abundance, not scarcity, which gives them depth and elasticity to be courageous. When duty calls, they are willing to have the difficult conversations, make the tough decisions, stand strong.
Why are these leadership qualities so acutely needed in 2020? Because our society is quickly losing its ability to discern facts and engage in healthy discussion and debate. Because we have lost sight of our common bonds and have fallen prey to magnification of our differences. Because we are losing our free press and freedom of expression. Because no one wants to live in a country without ability to freely think and speak truth. And because we need leaders to be courageous first, inspiring courage in the rest of us.
Tim Strickler is CFO of Communications Electronics Inc., a regional wireless communications company based in Timonium, Maryland. A York County resident and former finance executive at The Bon Ton Stores Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.