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We Need to Build Bridges Through Responsible Leadership

The 6th President of the United States of America, John Quincy Adams famously said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”.

If we look at the world right now, at this very moment wherever you are as you read this you may agree that the world is going through a chaotic and tense period. Cold warlike sentiments between two-world leading powers, political misunderstandings between Asian and western countries, wildfires, droughts, extreme climate change, massive social media disinformation campaigns, a repeat of the USA’s military campaign in Vietnam, and finally, we are still living through an ongoing pandemic.!

Ironically, everything mentioned here has already happened before and has been recorded in history. Cold wars between two superpower countries, political misunderstandings between Asian and western countries, indications on climate change, misinformation campaigns without the internet, and a pandemic. It would almost seem that we humans did not learn anything from experience. Contrary to the belief that experience in life is the world's best teacher. So, what did we or what do we still lack?

In every country, we have had and will continue to have inspirational leaders, a talented and hardworking workforce, innovation, and creativity and yet we seem to fall short of something. Leadership. Transformational leadership. The majority of the leadership we have today, whether it is at corporations, countries, are mostly transactional leaders. Transactional leadership is definitely required but should not be the bedrock of leadership.

Why haven’t we learned from our mistakes?

Human beings are natural followers. Of the many followers every now and then we have few people who stand out and manage to convince the rest of us to follow on their path. But history has shown human beings have a horrible track record in understanding why they are following a cause and can easily get swayed by inspiring words, imaginative scenarios, expectations that are too good to be true. This is not to say that that we have not had great leaders. We have had them but much fewer than we would like. So, is it that simple? Let’s just choose a great leader? But how do we identify a great leader?

What makes a great leader?

There can be many definitions of what makes a great leader. Through my understanding, I define a great leader as an individual that has the ability to inspire people, question what needs to be questioned, believe in a cause from an ethical perspective, and not resort to unethical methods to achieve a cause.

A leader is meant to transform society, a group, a nation, or even a few people towards a path that empowers the people following him/her in a manner that the followers are a better-improved version of themselves compared to before meeting the leader.

However, the majority of leaders that serve us today are transactional leaders. Blinded by greed, power, corruption, and corporations, a significant part of the world runs on a plutocratic system where the leadership of nations and corporations work hand in hand to benefit each other. Just like a business transaction.

Ironically the plutocratic system is widely followed in democratic countries where voters are allowed to vote for their leaders. In “non-democratic” countries day by day a fine line is being drawn on the role of a nation’s leadership and corporations’ leadership but far from being ideal. This is about perspectives and we must have the freedom to have our own perspective. Nevertheless, the motivation of this article is not to instigate political arguments but to offer one of many solutions to make our world a better place to live.

How can we identify and empower transformational leaders?

Well, before jumping into how to identify transformational leaders we should consider equipping ourselves with all the necessary information, education, and understanding in order to make the best-informed decision. We live in a time where social media is profusely used to spread misinformation, good information, and all sorts of conspiracy theories. So, it is of paramount importance to filter the correct information. But that is easier said than done. Here are a few methods we could use in order to filter out the right information when it comes to choosing the right leaders based on the circumstances:

A very simple framework like this could help influence our understanding of any given situation, a circumstance in the right direction. Surround yourself with rational, logical, and well-informed people to get a holistic view of your discussions. The more informed you are about what is happening the better it helps you to understand a potential leader’s goals, genuineness, and ability to be everyone’s leader.

Once we have a basic understanding of what problems lay ahead of us it becomes easier to choose an individual to lead us, yet a few things we must always take into consideration while voting for a leader or judging a leader. Apart from great inspiring speeches, social media campaigns, and catchy one-liners, which is mostly content created by marketing specialists and not specifically the leader. We need to understand:

  • A leader’s roots because it defines how well he/she understands common people perspectives

  • A proven track record with at least basic education completed

  • Their ability to answer questions at open press conferences

  • Long term effects on policy proposals

Now it's easy to think that if we were to always follow these steps, we would be living in a near utopian world. Can we ever live in a utopian society? Well, we’d rather not because the beauty lies in learning from mistakes, improving, and evolving. However, it is of paramount importance to realize that we may take all the necessary steps whilst choosing a leader and still be far from our expectations or left disappointed. What happens then?

Wake up the leader inside you

I want to leave you with one last thought, which is to wake up the leader inside of you. We have to remember the leaders handed to us or elected for us are also human beings and are bound to make mistakes. We all have a hint of leadership inside of us. In some capacity, we are all leaders in our lives, leaders of the family, of a friend circle, small sports teams, or even just a leader figure to your siblings. That means we have the chance to practice a transformational leadership approach every day in our lives. This can have positive ripple effects in our society as we try to make the world a better place to live in. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Let’s rise collectively to calm down our chaotic world. Doing so starts with rising above and paving the path with hope, clarity, honesty, and justice through responsible leadership that transforms and builds bridges between people for the better.

Author: Adit Rastogi


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