Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stand up and Speak up: Have a vision and sell it

“More than anything, the difference between a leader and a manager rests on the status quo: Managers are willing to live with it, and leaders are not.
Leaders are the ones with vision, who inspire others and cause them to galvanize their efforts and achieve change.  Managers, on the other hand, will follow standard operating procedure to their graves, if necessary, because they don’t possess the ability to change course.

Which do you suppose is the more important attribute to possess as we move into the next century?

The fact is, America and its business community have been managed to the edge of ruin, and now we’re in desperate need of leaders.  Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to find men and women of vision who are willing to stand on principle and make their voices heard.”

—Warren Bennis

Professor Bennis wrote this in 1997, before executives of auto manufacturers flew to Washington D.C. in private jets asking for billions of dollars to keep their companies in business, before AIG got greedy with the huge in income from premiums for insuring bad loans, before rating agencies rated BBB bonds as AAA for a little extra fee, before the American Dream of owning your own house was shattered because you couldn’t afford it,  before the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,  before jets crashed in to the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania, etc. 

Bennis is right, we need leaders.  My theory is we have them; but, they refuse to stand up and speak.  To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr. “I am not concerned with bad people doing bad things, I am concerned with the good people who see bad things and do nothing.”

There are many reasons why people won’t develop a vision, stand up and speak out; I can understand many of the reasons; however, it’s time; we are making too many bad decisions.  Say what you want about President Obama, he is a leader with a vision, he is just having a hard time selling the vision for various reasons.  

Let’s commit to one of two things: stand up to help sell his vision or stand up, share, and work for “buy in” to an alternative vision.
On a more micro level, you can start in your organization or community.
If you cannot stand up and lead, then learn how.

Source: Managing People is Like Herding Cats by Warren Bennis (1997) Publishers Press