When I first saw this quote by Albert Einstein, it gave rise to something that has been stirring in me for a while, about the role of leaders and how to best execute against it. They are powerful words that, in my mind, hold multiple meanings that can be useful in understanding the power of leadership and the difference between it and being a follower. I also happen to think it perfectly encapsulates what we’re communicating when we talk about the Six Commitments, because there are elements of all of them contained within it.
Albert Einstein validating the Six Commitments? Priceless!
OK that is an unbelievable but humorous stretch that isn’t really where I am coming from. But what I believe Einstein was speaking to was essentially finding that authentic voice within you and having the courage to use it. It is easy to gravitate towards the middle ground and reflect what others are saying. That certainly is a path of lesser resistance. But leaders – good leaders – don’t concern themselves with popularity as much as they concern themselves with authenticity in their message, and in their vision. They embrace their own value to their respective audience, and they are not afraid to lead from that position.
Reflecting something you’ve heard isn’t modeling – a popular buzzword of the last 20 years; it’s repeating something you’ve heard. It is always better to construct your messages in your own voice, using your own curiosity to form your own world view. You must also be willing to challenge it from time to time, for the sake of a better vision. There’s a lot of fake news out there – not the politically convenient kind but the words of people echoing what they hear around their lives that somehow becomes true because they read it on Facebook. It is incumbent on all of us as leaders to avoid that 21st century phenomenon and lead from within.
A word of caution, however. Being a strong voice requires that you spend a lot of energy working on your humility. Strong voices often attract detractors, people who don’t agree with your “radical” points of view and will fight against them. The debate is good – never fear that, in fact welcome it. But in many organizations and even within society at large there are those that will naturally seek to undermine your position simply because it goes against the echo. Your response must be to remain firm, but also to remain humble in your resolve as that will ultimately win more people to your personality, if not your position.
Be a voice, not an echo. Not just in the boardroom, but in everything you do and everywhere you do it. If you are serious about causing change, that is one great way to ensure you are always a leader along the way.