I don’t know about you, but I hardly watch the news anymore. It is just too depressing and polarizing because everything has become political. I’ve had enough of the fake news, criminations, recriminations, revisionist history, ad hominem attacks, etc. You name it, we have it. Worst yet, regardless of how hard you try to stay out of it, people try to pull you into it.
Last month, I gave a speech to 500 people on how to successfully lead a digital transformation. At the end, they gave me a standing ovation. As I was signing books, two people came up to me and asked, “What political party do you belong to?” At first, I was perplexed by the question. Obviously, they couldn’t tell by the way I gave the presentation; however, the filter they were going to use to determine whether it was good or bad was based on my political affiliation. (WTH?) I told them I belonged to the party of “James.” They got my point, smiled, and then had me sign their books. When I told a very good friend of mine, who is a former CEO and an outstanding leader, about the interaction, he told me when he gets asked that question he responds by saying that he is an American. That will be my future response. Why? America is the country of hope, not despair. Reason being, hope comes before everything else: strategy, prosperity and success, both individually and collectively. Which brings me to my main point: The number one role of any leader is to instill confidence in the future. Confidence that regardless how tough things currently are, they will get better. Leaders communicate what success looks like and the actions--including tough ones--that need to be taken to make it a reality. They also let the people know that assistance will be provided but it is their responsibility to take the actions.
Unfortunately, there are many people in America and throughout the world who are in need of hope and assistance. They are not looking for a hand out, but a hand up. As leaders, we need to provide hope, not by being Pollyannaish or patronizing, but by looking up at them and what they are capable of achieving instead of looking down and criticizing them. Indeed, I would not have achieved the success I have if it were not for the hope and hand up my family received when I was growing up. I was given a fish, taught how to fish, and expected to pay it forward. It is for those reasons I’m on a mission to instill hope in and give a hand up to others through my words and actions. I do it throughout the year, but step it up during Thanksgiving and Christmas because they are the times people who are having a hard time need it the most.
In closing as we break bread with each other this Thanksgiving, let’s also break away and start leading.