Allow Yourself to Dream: The Responsible Leader Steps Forward
With trust in leaders at an all-time low, the shifts in the business landscape wrought by developments in technology, and the conflicting expectations of different generations working in the same space, author of The Responsible Leader Tim Richardson puts forward the idea that it's time to reflect on how we can really make a difference.
John Lennon was a dreamer. In his anthem 'Imagine' he admits it. 'You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us and the world will be as one'. His picture of a utopian world without wars and religions captivated a generation and still does. Whether it is ever attainable is not that important. His call was to us to allow ourselves to imagine, to dream differently, to respond.
He was a revolutionary too, of the pacifist genre. He, like so many revolutionaries throughout history, realized that power to act lies not only with leaders but also with the individual and collectives and that were they to step forward in the right spirit then the world might change. He didn't know it then but he was something of an alchemist who was calling us to an individual response. A visionary perhaps in the same genre as Martin Luther King, who a decade earlier had had his dream and spoken about it so passionately in Washington.
Bob Dylan also entreated us 'Come gather 'round people wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown' – 'For the times they are a changing'. They still are, and when they are we have a choice. We can criticize the old road and get out of the way as Dylan reminded us, or we can allow ourselves to imagine and act with courage to shape the new one.
My new book The Responsible Leader is not perhaps in the same league as Lennon, Dylan or Luther King, but it is nonetheless a timely challenge to us as individuals and leaders to reflect on how we can make a difference in our revolutionary times. Our societies are being shaped by forces such as information proliferation through technology, conflicting expectations of five distinct generations alive at the same time, globalization of corporate influence to name but three. And what of leaders in this season? Our political, business and religious leaders have, in many cases, lacked vision, failed to inspire and taken trust for granted, and not surprisingly have been found out for hubris, greed and irresponsibility.
This may sound like a gloomy assessment, but all is not lost. New leaders are emerging who see the world for its interconnected and interdependent potential. Leaders who spend time to listen deeply, to notice and see past the obvious. Leaders who welcome the fact that our futures depend on better collaboration not more competition and regulation. These are next generation leaders (often outside the mainstream corporate world) who are building cultures in organizations that are not driven exclusively by performance but are environments that foster individual responsibility and collective accountability, and whose visions are about making a difference for the greater good.
The Responsible Leader paints a hopeful and practical picture that identifies a shift in thinking based on values and ethics, and challenges us all to consider how we can both be and develop responsible leaders of tomorrow. More than a dream, perhaps.