Whilst watching Breakfast News last week, I was completely in awe of two mothers, Grace Idowu and Margaret Mizen, who have both experienced the dreadful pain of having a son killed in an unprovoked knife attack. Their courage and compassion bowled me over and I was struck by how, as a result, they decided to set about trying to make a real difference in the lives of the people around them. They are working together on the Release the Peace project, endeavouringto engage young people in building stronger communities and safer neighbourhoods.
Listening to them talk about how they have approached schools and youth groups to share their stories with young people and the response they have been receiving, was humbling. It is so common to hear people complaining that ‘something should be done’ to improve things, whether in the wider community or in the work place, whilst sitting back and waiting for things to be changed by the government, or their senior leaders, or teachers etc. Of course, there are issues that do need an intervention of a more ‘global’ nature, but this doesn’t mean that individuals should do nothing in the meantime.
A fundamental pillar of outstanding leadership is being proactive, taking 100% responsibility for taking action and inspiring this same ownership in others. Sadly, in our communities and in our organizations, this is frequently lacking. We often rely on putting systems into place, hoping that they will drive individuals to change their behaviours. Whilst these processes may be important as a guide to achieve consistency, the only way to inspire real behaviour change is to lead by example and walk our talk. Critically, why would we wait for others to take action first, when there may be many things, no matter how small, that we could do immediately that might be the first steps towards change?
Participants on our leadership programmesfrequently offer up a list of things they wish would change in their workplaces, but when challenged, it becomes clear that they are waiting for the ‘organisation’ to do something to make a difference. They have never considered that they can have an influence as only one person and of course, as long as this belief prevails, nothing will ever really change – an organisation is, after all, just a group of individuals.
So, when it comes to dealing with the challenges we face, who should make the first move?
Partner at Leadership Training provider The Living Leader