The world can always use more positive leaders..
I have always been an optimist. I typically wake up most days in a good mood, seeing each day as an opportunity to make a difference, have fun, and connect with other people. Additionally, I love to learn, and every day presents an opportunity to improve and excel in what I do. I have no doubt that I am blessed.
However, I’m troubled by the recent prevalence of pessimism and negativity in our society. It seems that the voices of those who seek to divide us and emphasize the hardships and problems have grown louder. They are experts at pointing out issues but often fail to provide viable solutions. It’s almost as if they derive pleasure from highlighting how bad everything is and predicting a worsening future. It’s time for us to shift the conversation and turn the tide in a better direction.
True leaders do not unnecessarily scare people. They offer a positive, hopeful, and optimistic view of the future. They empower individuals to believe in themselves and demonstrate, through their words and actions, that we are all capable of achieving more than we realize when we apply ourselves. They bring us together around a common cause and face challenges head-on, diligently seeking practical solutions. They acknowledge the realities of the situation without sugarcoating them or avoiding them. Genuine leaders truly care about the people they work with and recognize that each person possesses unique, untapped potential waiting to be discovered and nurtured. They embrace diversity and appreciate the benefits of building and managing teams with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. They push themselves to improve and expect the same from others. They reject excuses, challenge rationalizations, and relentlessly pursue a better way forward.
If we take a step back and reflect for a moment, the progress human civilization has made is truly astonishing. We live longer, healthier lives and have witnessed remarkable advancements in medicine that have successfully tackled numerous life-threatening illnesses and health complications. With imagination and means, we can travel anywhere in the world. Our pockets hold computers and phones more powerful than the supercomputers of our early childhood. The world’s vast knowledge is accessible at our fingertips. Overall, our quality of life has significantly improved compared to just a few generations ago (this is an undeniable fact). Our scientific achievements continue to amaze, and they are occurring at an ever-increasing pace. There is so much to be grateful for. Yet so many of us are so negative and depression is at an all time high.
While I don’t claim to be a historian or generational expert, I recognize that every generation questions the actions of those who came before them. Older generations often struggle with the progress driven by their children and eventually their grandchildren. This is simply how the world evolves. However, the train of change and progress keeps moving forward, whether we embrace it or not. It may be tempting to nostalgically reminisce about the greatness of the past, but would anyone truly choose to exchange the 2020s for the 1920s? Was the world a safer place in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s compared to today? Would you prefer to have been poor and disadvantaged in the 1970s or 1980s rather than today? Would you rather face cancer today or even just a few years ago? Would you prefer the world’s response to the Spanish Flu over COVID? Is it preferable to navigate the challenges of being a person of color in the current environment, or would you rather turn back the clock a few decades and face the socio-economic realities of that time? We are making progress. It just isn’t as quick (or slow) as some would like it to be.
Here are some more questions to ponder and maybe what we need to change:
- Why do we allow the divisive nonsense propagated by our political leaders and the media to dictate our thoughts and actions?
- Why do we allow our public leaders to instill fear and division in us?
- Is it okay for our politicians to constantly bicker and argue, or should they be held accountable to work together and actually get things done?
- Why does it cost up to $20M to win a congressional seat that pays less than $200K per year? Should our presidential elections really cost $1B or more?
- At what point do we realize that continual gerrymandering is unfair and dangerous to our political system (on both sides of the aisle)?
- Is a tax system that is so complicated that only a small number of experts understand it conducive to fairness and transparency?
- Is it better to confine ourselves within our tribal bubbles or expand our perspectives and better understand others?
- At one point does your family lose its immigrant status? Didn’t most of our ancestors come from somewhere else?
- Why are we okay with the level of violent crime in our society? Have we just become de-sensitized and immune to it until it hits home directly?
- Do we really want to live in a country where everyone is armed out of necessity?
- Shouldn’t police shootings be a rare occurrence? (They are in the rest of the advanced world).
- Can we sustain a society that vilifies those who think differently from us politically and culturally, treating them as enemies deserving of our disdain?
- Is it constructive to constantly vent outrage at every perceived slight?
- Is social media bringing us together or tearing us apart?
- Is 24×7 for-profit news coverage good for democracy and our relationships?
- Is banning books really a good idea in a nation that was inspired by principles developed during the Enlightenment (which reversed this type of thinking)?
- Are we truly so individually vulnerable that we cannot handle setbacks and support each other when needed?
- Why does every social problem/disagreement need a victim?
- Why is there a difference between bailouts for businesses and entitlements for individuals?
- Is there ever such a thing as “settled law” or is everything subject to the whims of political appointment and power?
- Do we think business success is the problem or the solution in our country? How do people think jobs or product/service innovations are created?
- What is our obligation to one another to maintain this fragile democratic republic?
- Is your freedom more important than mine and vice versa?
What we need is a return to true leadership in this country. Leadership can be demonstrated in various spheres, whether it’s within your family, neighborhood, community, business, church, or civic organization. However, let us remember that leaders work to improve the lives of all people, not just themselves and those who share their beliefs. Our country was founded on the principles of reasoned debate and compromise. No one possesses all the answers, and anyone who claims to is deserving of ridicule, not admiration. We must restore respect for expertise. If we find ourselves discussing topics we don’t fully understand, it is our duty to conduct thorough research and strive to grasp the fundamental concepts before forming strong opinions. We cannot be so fearful of others and their ideas that our initial response is to perceive them as personal threats.
Wouldn’t we all be better off if we collectively leaned in and tackled the tough problems together? Coexistence isn’t a leftist principle but rather a prerequisite for human existence. Growing social disconnection and political division historically always leads to the same dark place. We either let it blow up, or fix it, or do both. Blowing it up often leads to class warfare, ends empires, ruins economies, and has severe socioeconomic consequences lasting for generations.
I acknowledge that the opinions expressed in this blog come from a relatively privileged position in society. However, I also recognize the hard work that has brought me to this point. I firmly believe that every individual is capable of extraordinary things. Together, we can accomplish much more than we can alone. I have no interest in holding people back or limiting their possibilities but in unlocking their potential.
This is our country. Let’s strive to change the conversation and improve our interactions with one another. Let’s interact peacefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully. I passionately believe that optimism, when balanced with pragmatism, is a powerful force. Look around you; leaders are everywhere, perhaps even staring back at you in the mirror. If you are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, take action to make things better. Start each day with the goal of making a positive difference and extend grace to all individuals, regardless of whether you agree with them or share their beliefs, preferences, or appearance. You might even learn something and make a new friend.