There are so many people out there trying to save the world. It’s a noble idea, and God only knows there seem to be a few things that need to be fixed. But do you ever wonder why we have so much trouble getting it done? Over the past few years I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about leadership and change, and have developed some thoughts on why some people inspire, and others don’t. When it comes to the problems we seem to have in saving the world, I believe the issue is simple. We haven’t started in the right place.
I had the extraordinary privilege last year to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was part of a group who attended “Connecting for Change Dialogue” which was hosted by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education in Vancouver. When asked about how we change the world, the Dalai Lama, in his customary manner, answered very simply: “Whether or not we are successful depends on the order of change. Change happens first with the self, then with the family, and then with a nation”.
How very true that is! As I reflect on the countless programs I’ve attended on leadership, all of them seem to deal with how to get others to do what you want them to do. How to communicate with them, how to train them, how to follow up, reward and measure their achievements. It’s all about how to change someone else’s behaviors. Seldom did any programs deal with the self – and how internally prepared an individual is to lead. I think that only when we understand our own motivations can we expect to sustain our impact in a leadership position.
Having personal commitment is essential for inspiring others
If we don’t sort out what our real drivers are, our motives can get in the way of our ability to succeed. For example, if you’re serving on the board of a not-for-profit organization for the sole purpose of building a professional resume, you will likely be someone who merely shows up at a few meetings, but can’t be counted on to give more of your time to the cause. But if the reason you serve is because you have been personally moved to action through a life-changing experience, you are more willing to spend your time and energy in working for the organization. You started the change with yourself before trying to influence others.
The same applies in the corporate world. Everyone can pick out a boss who isn’t for real. We all know people who talk the party line, but their actions don’t show true commitment. They’re going through the motions, and not being authentic. People may follow them for awhile, but over time, they’ll get bored. Rhetoric and flowery presentations can only go so far, but over time, people see through political agendas and self-promoting activities, and they move on. Only those who are personally committed really make a lasting impact.
So what can we do to achieve this level of comfort with ourselves? On a regular basis, make a conscious effort to spend some quiet time reflecting rather than reacting. Be honest about your true motivations, and uncover what you really believe in. Rely on the things that you have always known – your upbringing, your faith, your values and beliefs. Does what you’re doing really matter to you? Are you truly passionate about everything you do?
The Dalai Lama is right. We are only inspired by people who demonstrate a personal commitment. We want our leaders to care, to feel and to demonstrate their passion. It begins with us – before we move on any further.