A Culture of Dignity
I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of college students who were part of an on campus mentoring program connected to the colleges Diversity and Inclusion Department. This phenomenal group of young leaders are doing their best to lead a culture of dignity for all. Afterward I had the opportunity to sit with the department head and discuss our cultures current battles of division. He kept repeating one idea, “If we would just choose honor and fairness, the world would work.” Interestingly, I just hear Arthur C. Brooks, author of Love Your Enemies, say something similar. He said, "Let's call Americans to dignity and potential."
There is power in purpose, and those who understand their purpose discover a lifetime of joy in pursuing it.
Over and over today, I hear talking heads and positive thinkers promote the idea that if you “find work you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” While I understand the sentiment, this idea is just not true. Life isn’t found in work we love, life is found in fulfilling our purpose. The goal of life should also not be to not work. The second law of thermodynamics would suggest that any system left to itself will eventually deteriorate and die. We must work just to keep life going.
Still, the problem for many Americans (as many as 70% or more if you read Gallup), is not that they mind work, but that they want work that is fulfilling. Most Americans are not necessarily needing different careers, they need to see the purpose in what they are doing and be able to answer the question is this purpose helping me fulfill my purpose.
“Why am I here?” is still a question the soul must answer to live well.
Today’s leaders need to understand that man is searching for significance. We long to believe we matter, and that because we matter, we can make a difference.
The great leaders of tomorrow will be those who learn how to communicate significance to those they lead.
Here are 3 ways to grant significance to others and thereby lead them to greater life:
1. Share Vision
Directional clarity honors others in two ways: First, it gives people a choice, if they understand their own purpose and it matches your purpose they can join and participate in your vision by choice. Your people will know they belong, and they matter, because they know where you are trying to go together. Second, if your people are unsure of their own purpose, they can find it in your vision, thus providing them life while they are in the process of discovery. So, you must share vision again, and again, and again.
2. Accept input
One of the most vulnerable choices a leader can make is to accept the input of others. When you open the door, it feels like you are just asking for trouble. “If we accept input from everyone, that means we accept the crazies too.” However, as a leader, just because you listen to everyone’s input, doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone’s ideas. You honor people by listening. In the end you still need to make decisions, which means you run the risk of upsetting people. At that point, return to clarity and consistency and offer those who are offended the human right to get off the train. When visions diverge, it is ok to say goodbye. Dignifying another person by giving them the right to leave is still dignifying them. Agreeing with every idea that comes along removes people’s ability to affect anything with purpose, therefore it is dishonoring.
3. Innovate Again
Most organizations begin with innovation. They take an idea and create something different or improve on something existing. Still, sometimes we get caught in our own success. Sometimes we can’t see new opportunities because we don’t listen to new voices. Great leaders find ways to hear new things from new people and continue to innovate.
I know of one organization that offers new employees the opportunity to share their thoughts at 90 days and at 1 year. This interview has nothing to do with their job performance and everything to do with their understanding of the direction and vision of the organization. In this interview, new hires are asked what they see that doesn’t make sense to them. In this way the organization has been able to remain focused on its vision and direction, correcting areas where a new hire may have a misunderstanding to keep them on track, but more importantly it has kept the organization nimble enough to change with changing culture. It has given the leaders the opportunity to see where they might have lost sight of their own vision. It has created a synergy of consistent vision with every needed change to methods that are best to achieve that desired future. The process means that roles change, opportunities change, and the organization continues to grow.
In the end the question of giving purpose and dignity to others is a leadership choice. You must decide to honor others first. In this way we can reengage employees and reignite the life that we all are meant to have.