“Our troubled world is demanding a better brand of leadership.”
This statement from Bill Hybels at the 2017 Global Leadership Summit deeply resonated with me.
I’ve been feeling this burden for some time. We need leaders who will rise above the tensions pervading our culture and model a better way. In a time when people are pleading for acceptance and respect, it seems we’ve become less civil and respectful. I grieve because I believe we can be better than this.
If there is one thing my leadership journey has taught me, it is that when leaders see a need, they are called to step up. I will often find excuses for why “I can’t,” or “I shouldn’t,” or “it’s not my responsibility.”
It’s easy to say, “Not me.” It’s much braver to say, “If not me, who?”
Leaders go first. We brave the uncertain and unknown. We do this because we are compelled to make the way a little easier and a little more certain for others.
In its best and purest form, extraordinary leadership goes first because it is an act of service to others. It is the “love others” part of the great commandment.
When the obstacles seem insurmountable.
When tensions and division feel more problematic than ever.
When our world is being rocked by racial division, political tensions and threats of nuclear attack, what can ordinary leaders like you and me do?
Actually, I think there is a lot we can do.
Whether it is on a global or local scale, we can have impact if we are faithful and intentional.
In our quest to make enormous impact, we’ve missed the opportunities to lead well right where we are. We’ve overlooked the ordinary moments of leadership in pursuit of the grandiose and, in doing so, we’ve neglected to create healthy culture in our actual sphere of influence.
Here are three steps each of us can take to create a culture of civility in our current sphere of influence.
1) Model It
Are you respectful, kind and honoring of others, especially those with whom your opinions may differ? Oftentimes, we can be loose-lipped in our closest circles. We assume others know our “true intention.” But we set the tone for civility in our homes, our neighborhoods and our offices. Pay attention to your words and actions and be certain they align with the level integrity you aspire to achieve.
2) Own It
Assess where a culture of civility is lacking in your family or your organization and then determine what steps need to be taken to course-correct. Perhaps you need to apologize to others for not modeling it better. Maybe you need to have a couple of difficult conversations with friends or co-workers who can be hostile or disrespectful of others. You may also need to create a civility code for yourself, your family or your team in order to clarify your rules of respect for one another.
3) Be Patient and Persistent
Changing culture means we’re changing behaviors, and changing human behavior is slow and challenging work. Writing a civility code or rules of respect won’t immediately solve the culture problems you’re facing. However, a relentless commitment to accountability for yourself and others will lead to change. John Maxwell says, “Leaders must know the way, show the way and go the way.”
Imagine if every leader embraced their responsibility to create a culture of civility in their arena of influence. Imagine if every leader modeled it, owned it and patiently and persistently pursued a commitment to love and respect all people. If we took these steps, I am convinced we wouldn’t be facing the same levels of hostility we’re seeing today.
Imagine the extraordinary ripple effect of our collective commitment to creating cultures of civility.
If we’re each committed to our part, we can change the tide.
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker and leadership expert committed to helping others lead from their extraordinary best. A leader who loves “putting feet to vision,” she has served on the executive leadership teams of Menlo Church in Menlo Park, CA and Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. Outreach Magazine has recognized Jenni as one of the 30 emerging influencers reshaping church leadership. She is the author of several books, including her latest The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.