LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNICATION DRIVE VISION TO SUCCESS: IMPLEMENTING THE LAW OF THE PICTURE, CREDIBILITY AND COMMUNICATION
A familiar admonition states “without vision, a people perish.”  Indeed, from Solomon’s time to our modern era, problems develop when we lack vision. Without vision, individuals and institutions go adrift.
We can sense when things are adrift in our private lives, in our business enterprises and in our larger society. But often we do not see what causes institutions to go adrift. People don’t react quickly enough and so a drifting institution becomes a beached, shipwrecked calamity.
Who would have thought that a stalwart like G.E. would sink as it has over the last two years? Then again, who in the 1950’s or early 60’s would have imagined that General Motors would have to go through bankruptcy and be bailed out by the federal government? Or that the Ford Motor Company, reeling from so much loss of market share in passenger cars, would announce plans to abandon that sector entirely except for two car models?
Leaders generate and cast a new vision. Generating vision involves taking existing conditions and circumstances into account, defining a desired and preferred future state and then working on how to move from here to there. Whether the picture leaders project stays in focus or not then depends on what leaders do as well as on what they say.
Leaders set the tone by what they do each day. Is what they do congruent with the vision? When leaders act with integrity and show personal dedication, excellence and sacrifice they set an example. People around them relate and emulate. John Maxwell summarizes the Law of the Picture by saying “People do as people see.”  Excellence at the top breeds excellence within the organization. Just as surely, corruption or chronic, uncorrected flaws at the top – in spirit or in practice – breed the same below. No surprise then, that in business, even without unusual events beyond one’s control, a leader’s personal drift or inattention to the overall environment, the business at hand or the people around him puts the enterprise in jeopardy.
From experience and observation, we can conclude that underlying ingredients for lifting an organization is the leader’s constant engagement with others and commitment to improving his or her own character and effectiveness as a leader. The leader who raises his own leadership lid has a higher capacity to influence others and multiply success.
Great leaders improve themselves while building a team and developing workable strategies. Great leaders use their credibility to continually motivate people to achieve measurable goals connected to a relatable purpose. Such communication is effective because people work their best when they truly understand the “why” the “what” and the “how” of what their organization is doing.
By investing in personal growth and development, you can increase your capacity to lead others, build effective teams and propel your organization toward success. May 2019 be your year for growth, leadership and outstanding achievement.
Stay tuned to Blogging for Growth and contact us if interested in executive coaching or attending a Boundless Growth seminar or mastermind study. Boundless Growth is planning a three-part mastermind study and seminar on leadership and personal influence to occur in February of 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
 Proverbs 29:18
 Law 13, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John Maxwell.
Our thinking of Robert F. Kennedy this week evokes emotions that stir the human spirit – especially in our age of cynicism and mistrust of leaders.
Yesterday, Dawn Porter commented that what we miss and so admire about Bobby Kennedy was his conviction, passion, energy and intelligence. Indeed those characteristics of his leadership mesmerize us today just as they mesmerized us during that fateful summer of 1968. Senator Kennedy’s death left so much undone - work that still needs to be completed. We got lost in the Vietnam War. Subsequent crises in leadership affected our morale. Yet fifty years later, amidst all the mistrust, from Brooklyn to Charlottesville, and from Detroit to Houston, an increasing number of us are willing to revisit the unfinished business of 1968 and to take up causes that are larger than our personal affairs or the personality of any one individual.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend expressed her desire that all of us simply make use of the talents that we are given to help lift humanity. In other words, each of us can start with what we have and add energy to the ripple effect that Senator Kennedy talked about. Bobby Kennedy used his talent to help others. With empathy towards the marginalized and a willingness to engage with those who disagreed with him, he captured the attention and imagination of millions.
In that fateful summer of 1968, the lives of two men marched towards an intersection with each other in a way that might have changed the trajectory of our history. MLK had expanded the civil rights movement into a broader campaign for human dignity with his Poor People’s Campaign - a campaign designed to lift all Americans, whether they be black or white. Likewise, Bobby Kennedy was calling for universal respect and understanding and for the attitude and behavior of love for one’s fellow citizens regardless of race. Indeed, Senator Kennedy's speech in Indianapolis averted rioting in that city the day Martin Luther King was killed, just two months before Bobby was shot at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles. [see the text of Robert F. Kennedy’s remarks in Indianapolis printed below].
What is it that we so miss about Robert Kennedy? Certainly the conviction, passion, energy and intelligence. But also his empathy towards others and willingness to pursue justice. And his ability to connect with just about everyone through authenticity and vulnerability, as opposed to the showmanship and the degrading of others that we see too much of today. What we miss about Bobby is the stuff of leadership. Ingredients not defined by party affiliation or political doctrine. We miss intelligent ability deployed with compassion and a sense of justice. We need more of that in America today. More courage. More messages of peace, reconciliation and hope to move us toward a just and more perfect union.
April 4, 1968
Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King
Senator Robert F. Kennedy
April 4, 1968
I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.
In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black--considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible--you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization--black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.
Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.
So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love--a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.
We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we've had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
Friends, on this MLK, Jr. Day, I thought I would share something written by John Lewis, a compatriot of Dr. King and a leader in the ongoing battle for freedom, dignity and justice. John reflected on his life-long striving towards transforming flawed and broken places into beloved communities. His words are relevant for today. Let us not grow faint of heart. Let us remain committed to the cause. Until justice rolls down like a mighty river and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24)
On this particular afternoon – it was a Saturday, I’m almost certain – about fifteen of us children were outside’s house, playing in her dirt yard. The sky began clouding over, the wind started picking up, lightning far off in the distance, and suddenly I wasn’t thinking about playing anymore.
And then it got worse. Now the house was beginning to sway. The wood plank flooring beneath us began to bend. And then, a corner of the room started lifting up….I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None of us could. This storm was actually pulling the house toward the sky. With us inside it.
That was when Aunt Seneva told us to clasp hands. Line up and hold hands, she said, and we did as we were told. Then she had us walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising. From the kitchen to the front of the house we walked, the wind screaming outside, sheets of rain beating on the tin roof. Then we walked back in the other direction, as another end of the house began to lift.
And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies….
It seemed that way in the 1960’s, at the height of the civil rights movement, when America itself felt as if it might burst at the seams – so much tension, so many storms. But the people of conscience never left the house. They never ran away. They stayed, they came together and they did the best could, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that was the weakest.
And then another corner would lift, and we would go there….And eventually, inevitably, the storm would settle, and the house would still stand.
But we knew another storm would come, and we would have to do it all over again.
And we did.
And we still do, all of us. You and I.
Children holding hands, walking with the wind. That is America to me – not just the movement for civil rights but the endless struggle to respond with decency, dignity and a sense of brotherhood to all the challenges that face us as a nation, as a whole.
That is the story, in essence, of my life, of the path to which I’ve been committed….It is a path that extends beyond the issue of race alone, and beyond class as well. And gender. And age. And every other distinction that tends to separate us as human beings rather than bring us together.
Excerpt from prologue. Lewis, John (1988). Walking With the Wind. New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster
Recent events lead me to expound on a theme touched upon in an earlier blog post. That theme was that leadership can be good or bad; in any situation, leadership can help or it can hurt. This is but part and parcel of the notion that leadership is claimed by, conferred upon or devolves upon individuals, or it simply involves individuals wittingly or unwittingly using their influence to affect others. Thus, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”
Bad leaders can have influence over blind followers and sow hatred and discord as the neo-Nazis and their cohorts and sympathizers attempted to do in Charlottesville, Virginia and Lexington, Kentucky. Without vigilant opposition from people of good faith, one or two influential bad leaders can drag many people and potentially even an entire country onto a road of destruction. It happened in the 1930’s and early 1940’s. We kid ourselves if we think that such evil cannot not happen again.
In contrast, good leaders can use their influence to wipe away the bad and to redeem the land and space temporarily trodden upon by evil. That is largely what happened in Charlottesville, as church leaders, students and civilians of all stripes denounced hatred and reclaimed their city.
Moral grounding, or lack thereof, is often reflected by the very words and phrases that one uses. As a person of faith I cannot help but think of the saying “it is not the food one eats that defiles a man, for what one eats goes through the stomach and passes on; rather it is the words one speaks that defiles a man…. for what comes out of one’s mouth proceeds from the heart.” One doesn’t have to share my particular faith to feel that the failure to condemn Nazism and the words one uses in addressing what occurred in Charlottesville bears some relationship to one’s moral philosophy or moral outlook. There is no place for relativism when plain issues and facts reveal something as good or evil.
There is a spiritual component to human beings. In people of good will that spiritual component works almost automatically to discern between a spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Much of what the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue labels as “fake news” is not fake. Beyond his reaction to events in Charlottesville, the habitual manufacturing of his own facts and repeated insistence that something is so when it isn't is troubling.
Our friends in Europe are alarmed. We should also be alarmed. By the 1930’s, the Nazi propaganda machine was in overdrive, with publications like Der Stuermer and Volksicher Beobachter actively distorting reality, publishing lies and inciting hatred. The goal was to unite a “superior” group of people by blaming, defaming and disparaging other ethnic groups, notably Jewish people, and more broadly anyone who wasn’t “Aryan.” One of my older friends in Charlottesville who grew up in Germany told me that Jewish people observed early warning signs of approaching evil a good 7 years before the ascendency of the Nazi regime. The early warning signs consisted in large part of a growing social acceptability of the hateful words used by individuals of ill will who excelled at using propaganda to influence others.
I don’t care much for political party identity. As George Washington observed in 1796, the spirit of party is ruinous when it gets in the way of good leadership. The truth of Washington’s observation caused me to appreciate the leadership of many within the president’s own party who broke with the president and unambiguously condemned evil when they saw it. The majority of Americans expect that kind of clarity from the Oval Office. It is simply a matter of stepping up and demonstrating good leadership. If there is a silver lining following recent events in Charlottesville, perhaps it is a collective recognition that that good leadership involves moral clarity and that vigilance is required to preserve a republic.
Marty Johnson, chief coach and president of Boundless Growth, is a U.VA. Law alumni who recently returned to Charlottesville. He is a Phi Alpha Theta honors graduate (international history) of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and is a certified coach, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell Team.