On the Everyday Leadership radio show on Saturday, “Doug from Mason,” couldn’t remember who said it, but he loved the line that the reason America is great is because of the strength of the American people. Of course, our capitalism and our democracy both derive their strength from one fundamental source: freedom. Any individual can play! And individual action leads to innovation and to communication and collaboration. “Everyday Leadership” and “Reading for Leading” are celebrations of people who don’t feel like passive victims but instead act!
Now, this financial crisis lends itself so marvelously to passivity and victimhood. It’s complicated as all get out. Who can understand it, let alone act on it (besides Bush, Bernanke, Frank and Paulson, and do they even understand it)? There’s lots of frustration and heaps of blame to throw around. Still I ask: Why not act? Yes. You and I . . . Act. Like these two everyday leaders did last week.
Jonathan Smith wrote an email to the 60 or so people in his Leadership Detroit class entitled “It’s Our Turn to Lead.”* How cool that he would reach out to his peers with ideas on how to lead in times of crisis and change! He had no authority, appointment, salary, expectation. He simply took it on himself to share constructive thoughts.
The other proactive leader that caught my attention was my wife, Governor Granholm. You might ask, “Are you really saying a governor is an everyday leader???? Come on!” But in this case, she’s leading up, much like Jonathan Smith was. I heard her on the phone last week, telling staff “I need to talk to Barney Frank today.” They set it up. And she told me she was talking to the Director of the National Governors Association about how to mobilize governors. And over the weekend she was talking to financial experts like Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, asking how governors could play a helpful role in this enormous undertaking. I don’t often publicly brag, but I was so impressed that she wasn’t hiding behind complexity, or saying “it’s a federal issue,” or waiting for direction. She was on it – an everyday leader, being proactive.
Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People remains one of THE best books around. The first of Covey’s seven habits is “be proactive.” Don’t give in to the complexity and distance this week. Ask what you (and yours) can do! Invest. Save. Help somebody else out. Inform yourself. Call a talk show. Be involved. The country is great to the degree we all act with greatness – especially in challenging times:
Lead with your best self,