True Leaders Gone

True hunting is over
No herd to follow
Without game, men prey on each other
The family weakens by the bite we swallow         

– “Three Days”, Jane’s Addiction

I watched a very disturbing thing happen on social media recently. A post by someone I know and care dearly about became the subject of a storm of hate, judgmentalism, and ignorance. This isn’t going to be a post about social media; it’s about true leadership.

Our freedom, prosperity, and leisure are great blessings. If you live in the western world, you are likely part of the global 1%. Ninety-nine percent of the world population makes less than $34,000 a year. The economic privilege we enjoy, combined with freedoms also not shared by most people on the planet, give us the opportunity to do things that are not related to survival.

In other words, since we don’t have to spend dawn to dusk hunting and gathering and mending and building, we have time to pursue other interests. Sometimes those interests are good. Sometimes they are not. At times, it appears that we use the leisure we have found to stir up trouble and hurt others.

The next verse in the song says,

True leaders gone
Of land and people
We choose no kin but adopted strangers
The family weakens by the length we travel

The further we advance technologically and otherwise, the more we seem to retreat as people. While this is glaringly obvious on social media, it is equally true in many other areas of our lives and communities. I remember my dad telling me about growing up in Pryor, OK. People sat on porches in the evening (no internet streaming and only a few channels of tv) and talked. My dad said if he got in trouble at school, the news made it home before he did.

While many factors influence human connection, leadership is disproportionately consequential in shaping communities, institutions, and society. In their report, Human Connection in the Virtual Workplace, The HOW Institute for Society found that during COVID, human connection was strained for everyone, but was more impactful for women and younger workers. In all, 30% of U.S. workers felt less deeply and meaningfully connected to their organizations, and 44% felt less connected to coworkers since the start of the pandemic.

Interestingly, the same study found that when reporting to moral leaders, the gender and age difference decreased or disappeared completely. Reporting to leaders who exhibited and embodied behaviors and attributes associated with moral leadership caused 60% of workers to feel more meaningfully connected to their organization, 80% to feel more connected to coworkers, and 90% to feel more connected to their leader.

Moral leadership is a series of choices, values, and behaviors. Authenticity, trust, connection, inspiration, and humility are all hallmarks of a moral leader. Leadership requires significant investment and effort in the best of times. Given the current state of our communities, the work of leadership is even harder, yet more crucial. Here are some things to consider as we lead with an eye to helping our people be connected in a meaningful way.

Values are the thing.

Moral leaders are guided by values and ethics developed over time and with experience. We have well-developed values at Kimray, but each leader has to have their own personal values too. Be introspective, and think about the principles by which you live your life.

Ego is a killer.

Moral leaders have a healthy sense of self and are not threatened by others. However, self is not the most important thing. Leadership is not about the leader or their interests; it is about serving others. Humility is essential for great leadership.

Diversity is good.

While we can expect members of our community to honor the values of the community, we need to consider that they have values of their own. There is room for the combination of individual values and the values of the community to create a vision for a better future.

Change is a constant.

Leaders don’t fear change. Good leaders have the courage and conviction to share a vision to try and bring about positive change. Great leaders help other people accept change with anticipation instead of dread.

Unity does not mean sameness.

It is rare that everyone will agree with everything or everyone else. A great leader listens to people and respects them by giving them a voice. While leaders should try not to create division, they know they will never win everyone over. Great leaders try to inspire as many people as possible. I do not think the true leaders are gone, but it is time for them to step up. If you know your values, can leave your ego at the door, are willing to embrace people who are different than you, be a change agent, and seek unity, you can be part of a shift toward a better world. When we strengthen the connections around us through leadership, we create communities where instead of preying on one another, we support each other. That is how we get stronger no matter the length we travel, and it is The Kimray Way.