Listening to some Don Henley this morning…Sunset Grill–a couple things jumped to mind. The song references Sunset Grill, a hamburger restaurant at 7439 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California But as much as there is nothing better than a good burger… this is about leadership… and the last stanza of the song struck me as relevant:
Watch the “basket people” walk around and mumble And gaze out at the auburn sky
Maybe we’ll leave come springtime Meanwhile, have another beer
What would we do without all these jerks anyway? Besides, all our friends are here
Is this how we look at problems today? Status quo is fine? Are we just watching the “working girls” go by like a bunch of cows watching cars pass? Have another beer? “Maybe we will leave come springtime?” By no means do I think that one strong leader can solve all the problems in an organization, the U.S… or the world. But that leader could go a very LONG way to solving many of them. It has never been ONE man or woman that has stepped up to great challenges and solved them, but it has been that one person that is able to coalesce an amazing team of leaders around himself/herself with a vision for the future and thus develop the team that solves a great many of the complex issues of the day.
“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” –John Kenneth Galbraith
This quote has to be something close to an absolute truth… and to have the willingness to confront these anxieties–requires audacity. A favorite definition of audacity is, “A bold and blatant disregard for normal constraints.” Audacity is a highly-charged word with both positive and negative connotations, but if a leader’s “bold and blatant disregard for normal constraints,” is motivated by love and a desire to create a better world–if that leader is motivated by “the greater good” mountains can be moved. We’ve all heard the old cliche, think outside the box, ad nauseam. The audacious leader would say, “what box…wait–there’s a box?” To win big, one has to risk big. Have we become risk averse? So is it caution? Caution is a disease that can infect leaders says commentator Dan Goure.
True… citing examples of audacity like Gen. George S. Patton, Goure says that the United States cannot win with consensus; the country needs bold ideas and passion, I would add audacity. The ultimate audacious question (and agenda) for any leader is, “How are we going to change the world?” Or if that’s too big a question, it’s no less noble to ask: “how are we going to change the world of our agency/customers/employees/industry/ marketplace, etc?” Individuals become frustrated with the direction of their company, organization, or perhaps even their country….but most are quickly silenced when asked a simple question… what are you (we) going to do about it?
Answer either one of the questions above, and you’ll generate more energy than a laminated vision statement ever could. And it’s exactly the kind of audacity that we all need right now. Give it a try–top of your head. Think about the country…your business, your work, your team’s talent, your customer’s challenges and complete the thought in your head, on paper, in a blog…how are you going to change the world (or at least your corner)?
We are not too old as a nation to forget our great beginnings. Does anyone remember General George Washington as an audacious leader… or has he been tamed? Audacious, brilliant, reckless–these seem strange adjectives to apply to George Washington. Our nation was born in audacity: taking on the greatest military force in the world with a rag-tag military led by a great man who inspired an incredible team of leaders to include Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Samuel Adams, James Monroe, etc. What are we going to do to keep our nation/organization/team great? Or sit in our armchair and complain? So…Let’s go down to the Sunset Grill or….Get audacious…