The horrific events that occurred over a decade ago on 11 September 2001 not only had a major impact on our nation, leaving it in a state of upheaval and disarray, but many nations around the world were also affected. People everywhere were left in awe that such events had occurred and thus found themselves full of questions and concerns that warranted answers. Many were afraid to make any immediate decisions about what to do next as they were uncertain about what the future had in store.
Businesses made valiant efforts to recover from the tragedy and return to business as usual, however, the reality of the matter was that things would never be as they once were. Employees returned to work in a state of aftershock filled with anxiety about how long their employment would last which caused concerns about how they would continue to provide for their families in the event that their employment were to end suddenly. Business leaders had equal concerns about the future of their organizations, and did their best to help their worried employees get through a difficult situation.
It has been said that into every life a little rain must fall. Adversity, or what we may perceive to be adversity, enters into the life of every person at various times and in various forms. Each person is different and each person handles adversity in their own way. Some may respond with resentment, anger, bitterness, doubt or fear. Others may respond with faith, patience, and a hope born of that “peace that passes all understanding”. From my own experiences as a member of the United States Armed Forces and now as a leader in the civilian sector, I have found that adversity plays a vital role in my life. It is through trials and difficulties that oftentimes I am made stronger. It is when my endurance is put to the test that I find I am able to forge ahead with greater determination.
In the aftermath of the events of September 11, people tried to bring some sense of normalcy back to their lives as the overarching fear of uncertainty still permeated the air. They began looking to their leaders for reassurance and guidance. Perhaps for the first time many leaders had to hone some of their leadership skills that they had long since placed on the proverbial shelf to address the needs of those who looked to them for direction. In certain instances, some leaders may had to re-examine and re-evaluate the qualities of a good leader and how a leader should handle adverse situations.
A good leader learns to adapt, improvise, and overcome in any given situation. He needs to be able to be proactive instead of always being reactive. He must be a leader that is confident and one that the people know they can trust. He wants people to succeed at whatever tasks they set forth to carry out. It was Trammell Crow, one of the world’s most successful real estate brokers, who once said, “It’s tough enough to succeed when everybody wants you to succeed. People who don’t want you to succeed are like weights in your running shoes”.
Maxey Jarman built a billion-dollar corporation, but neither success nor failure was crucial to his interior life. He treated those two impostors as though they were the same. He took a company from 75 employees to 75,000 employees, making Genesco in the late ’60s the world’s largest apparel company. Even when business was not going well, Maxey maintained a tremendous spiritual resiliency and kept contributing, without bitterness, to many Christian causes. He was a man who rose to the very top in business, yet was uncompromising in his spiritual commitments. He was known as always saying, “It isn’t important that people “like” you. It’s important that they “respect” you. They may like you but not follow you. If they respect you, they’ll follow you, even if perhaps they don’t like you.” The respect that a leader receives does not necessarily show ability, but it does show character and personality.
A good leader is also one who possesses a quality that makes people want to listen to him. He has a “holding court” quality about him. When he speaks, people listen. However, not only must he be able to communicate his thoughts and ideas effectively, he must also be able to listen carefully to what others are saying. He realizes that effective communication is a two-way process that requires both a sender and a receiver. One-way communication may have its purpose at times, but more results can be achieved when two-way communication is the normal practice. There are times when people need to vent their frustrations and express their fears and concerns, and they need someone who is willing to listen to what they have to say, who respects them, not just tell them what to do.
A good leader does not always walk in front of those he leads, but he learns to walk beside them. He also knows how to be a good follower as well as a good leader. As someone has wisely said, “You will never be a leader unless you first learn to follow and be led”. He realizes that there is no “I” in team and that true success in any attempt is achieved when both the leader and those who follow work together and have the same visions and goals in mind. It is those visions and goals that must be their main focus and driving force.
Vince Lombardi once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” Rosalynn Carter said, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” And Douglas Macarthur said, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”