Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Leaders in Difficult Times–The Great Correction

Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. - Harry S. Truman

For the last few years, I have been publicly predicting what I refer to as the Great Correction, a time when many errors and omissions (intentional or accidental) in regulation, intention and execution within society, government and business will all come together in the perfect storm.

This perfect storm will, I believe, stagger societies around the world and will change forever how society is structured.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to have seen these things developing. 

People who study economic long wave theories have been predicting that the current cycle of abundance will end between 2012 and 2015 and will end in chaos before the next cycle engages.  Unfortunately, people who don’t like bad news refer to these economists as pessimists, uber-bears or dreamers.

News of disruption around the world, in the form of things like Arab Spring and economic spirals in Europe and the US pound our psyche every day.  Again, people decide it is better to tune out “bad news” rather than try to understand what all of these events are telling us.

Then there are people who believe that the best way to live a better life is to act as if there are no problems, thus guaranteeing that all problems will disappear.  Unfortunately for these people, reality has a way of interfering with dreams.

The fact of the matter is that we are on the cusp of significant change in the world, change that will be painful for many.  Try as we might to avoid it, it is already well underway.

In times such as these, how our government, business and society leaders respond will play a key role in how painful (or not) this change will be and how well-poised we are to emerge from the chaos to build a better world.

History is filled with stories of great victories where leaders rose to the occasion, rallied their people around a vision that inspired and established a plan to guide people out of the maelstrom they found themselves in.

History is also filled with tales of great defeats, where leaders hid from the people or chose to take care of their own needs before the needs of the people, guiding organizations and even entire civilizations into ruin.

When great challenge was before Winston Churchill’s government during World War II, he had no doubt that they would do whatever they had to to push the Germans back.  In his speech of June 18th, 1940, he concluded his vision for the future by saying:

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'

We need leaders now who will bring a similar, powerful, inspiring vision to everyone around the world.

We need people to step up with plans to carry out this vision.

And we need everyone to do their part to build others up instead of tearing them down as we carry out this plan.

The Great Correction is upon us.

With it is our chance to define and live “our finest hour”.

Do we have the will and the courage to create it?

I hope so.  Our potential indicates that we do.  However, our historic track record is less optimistic.

It’s time for our government and business leaders to stop business-as-usual and inspire us with a vision to carry us through the Great Correction or help us avoid as much of it as we can.

It’s time for President Obama and other world leaders to show us that they can guide us through the minefields that we find all around us.

Leadership in good times is all well and good.

However, it is during the difficult times that real leaders show us what they are made of.

And in turn, help us discover what we are made of.

In service and servanthood,


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