Societal Leaders – what do you need to be one?

I had the pleasure of meeting with a number of individuals who I would classify as representatives of society, who are working to enhance society and usually in the most difficult circumstances, like violence and poverty. I must meet them and I must understand what makes them who they are.

Four personal comments have been made. These are not meant as a systematic analysis – but rather as a driving force for reflection and discussion.

How does a crisis change your leadership?

That old saying that a disaster can never be allowed to go to waste seems highly relevant right now. In the degree of disruption this point in time sounds unparalleled. Many of us have never had such an encounter before and hope we never have to. But many opportunities and seeds of opportunity come from destruction and confusion. In our organizations, we are all in various phases of crisis management. Some people may even be in the extreme stage of early action and burning flames. It is crucial, after you have moved to the adjustment stage, to consider how you can adjust as a leader and as an organization. In this phase, we and our organization have the chance to unlock an extremely different future. We have an openness to reinvent ourselves – to become a societal representative within uncertainty. 

The actions that we take today are going to have a profound impact on how we view and stand for others. The way we handle our staff, clients and the broader community will continue to live for several years beyond the end of COVID-19. Sometimes chaos will make it much clearer for us to see stuff. Disruption of our everyday life, our normal behavior habits allow us to re-evaluate, cut the noise and better consider what matters to us. We begin to view things differently; we accept new opinions; we ask questions we haven’t previously asked or did not want to ask.

Have you focused on your personal, professional or both life decisions during this pandemic and asked why you were doing anything? Yes, and if there is a willingness, even an aspiration, in any of those thoughts to take the organization to something that is important, not to benefit but to influence the world in a more constructive way, this is the beginning of societal leadership. A leader of society is someone guided by others’ greater good.

Now is the time for us to welcome these ideas with both arms and begin to cultivate these green shoots of societal leadership.

Experiences outside the norms of normal life

Social leaders have had mostly encounters beyond the norms of other people’s experiences and this experience has led to a deep and sustainable calling from which they cannot walk. For many, it becomes so vital that you are always able to risk your own lives for the society that you represent. You will establish the reason for your life far beyond yourself.

Many societal leaders are very born into really stable and supportive environments – and they are really transformed in the mission. Social leadership does not mean that you have to be born in such difficult circumstances; it demands attention and then bravery to make a difference.

Love and equity values

Threatening or severe conflict appears to have sent people in one direction or two – they can become more tribal, with a greater propensity for brutality, or they can become much stronger, more empathetic, more capable of embracing others’ viewpoints, more full of compassion for the broader community. They strive for a greater good – which requires remarkable dedication and determination.

An exceptional level by consciousness of oneself

Lao Zhu said “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.

The societal leaders I’ve collaborated with to recognize and represent the most inclusive concepts of leadership, even when they have only little development in this area. It’s a matter of courage to overcome others. They all spent important moments of self-reflection as to who you truly are, what you stand for and how you can derail and allow yourself and your culture.

A ability for comprehension

Societal leadership might be seen as an elders “the elders of the world encourage contact by enabling others to cross their edges and flow through borders that divide us.”

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