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Leadership Lessons from the 2021 American Insurrection

Those that engaged in the violence and desecration of our Capitol were united around a common cause. They had a shared purpose, united around a leader’s values. How can you unite your organization, your teams, around a common purpose for good? How can you, as a leader, lead with values that unite people around purposeful, meaningful work that contributes to the betterment of society and our world? What is here to learn?

We have all heard the terms Courageous Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Servant Leadership. We mostly agree on core leadership competencies like integrity, humility, strategic thinking, the ability to build relationships, and practice inclusion. Research has validated the value and necessity for these competencies for success in business. Organizational cultures that foster the curiosity and creativity needed to thrive, in our ever changing world, will rely on these competencies; if the organization is to succeed and/or sustain success.

Yet, for the last four years these fundamental leadership competencies have been dismissed as expendable, or at best, a cafeteria style, pick and choose proposition. Either too burdensome, or unimportant to require. On January 6 we witnessed the outcomes and cost of dismissing and/or selectively choosing which leadership actions matter.

What you say, what you do, especially as a leader, it all matters. As a leader the values you espouse, your internal why, can become a catalyst for anarchy, or a blueprint, for successful organizations that contribute good into the world.

Successful leaders are approachable, values based and they listen. They live, espouse, and hold themselves accountable. And, they welcome your feedback and accountability partnership as well.

With humility, they create values-based organizations. Creating an overall vision that serves something bigger than themselves.

There is a ton of research to substantiate how, and why, people in values based organizations enjoy more success, are more engaged, and are more effective. Leaders in these organizations bring people together around a shared purpose.

The how, is connection through purpose. Your purpose means understanding why your organization exists. Your “why” is your anchor. When the “why” is values based, and a benefit to the world it attracts creativity, trust, and innovation.

Second, values-based leadership enhances coordination and teamwork that benefits the shared purpose. Employees understand the meaning and purpose of the work. They are able to cognitively feel a sense of purpose and belonging in the organization. This is the intrinsic driver of creatively and innovation. However, when that coordination and purpose is destructive, eventually, the chaos called comes to fruition.

Thirdly, values-based leaders have a north star. A roadmap guiding their communication. These leaders communicate values, expectations and help groups identify how they are going to work with each other.

They are approachable, inviting different perspectives to the table. They communicate in ways that are inclusive, authentic, and open. Thus creating high levels of collaboration and trust. Trust, that intangible asset that can make someone follow you to the ends of the earth. Values-based leaders lead their organizations into greatness, not tyranny.

To do any of this, your commitment to courage and continuous learning must be real. Your commitment to self assessment and self management is required. For this, humility is fundamental. The lack of humility we have witnessed is the gaping whole through which disaster slid.

There are many lessons here. May we learn them well.

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