In 2006 I heard the song Lookin’ for a Leader, written and sung by Neil Young. It reflected a significant mood at the time in the USA. Young was asking for a different kind of leader “with great spirit on his side” to step into the role of taking the country forward. He also wrote that the person was “not in the house” but “waiting here among us and we’ve got to seek him out”.
I want to celebrate those leaders today – the ones who have “great spirit” on their side and are among us, doing great work. I want to bring a sense of dignity, respect and emotional health to balance the world of leadership that we are experiencing at this time. I would like to share some examples of what can be done when a leader is genuine, operates ‘above the line’ and is committed to engaging with and making a difference to individuals, organisations, communities and the planet.
The gift of this kind of leader is that they make a difference without the need to promote themselves. They find ways forward without having to ensure that the whole world knows what they have done or how great they are at doing it. They make positive change without pushing what they believe in and without demoralizing or demotivating others.
Chances are you haven’t heard of these leaders. The dilemma with the type of leader I am describing is that we don’t usually hear from them or about them. They are intent on doing what they need to do, with ongoing support from us and others, without being ‘relevant’, newsworthy or controversial enough to satisfy the needs of today’s mainstream media.
One of these leaders is Sean Willmore, who set up The Thin Green Line Foundation to “protect nature’s protectors”. In building the confidence and capability of indigenous rangers around the world and supporting the families of those who have been killed whilst doing their job, Sean has developed a model that has relevance to many other communities across the globe.
Another leader with “great spirit” is Tracey Sawyer of Testigo. She originally responded to a request from Masai friends in Tanzania for clean, running water in their village. Now her organisation also has a significant and sustainable permaculture project in place to provide alternative food sources as changes to the climate affect the Masai’s natural way of living.
A third example of “among us” leadership is the GlobalEx project team from the Australian Medical Students’ Association. They created a three-day global health seminar, inviting 50 medical and allied health students and supporting them to take action on health initiatives at a local and global level. These are our medical and health leaders of the future.
I am sure that we all have examples of this kind of leadership that we can bring into the light. I would love to know about ‘hidden’ leaders like this who you know and are inspired by. We usually don’t have to go far to find them – it’s just that for many reasons we do not often hear about them or the difference they are making.
By sharing their stories we can provide great examples of what real leadership looks like and inspire and influence others to see the difference and impact that this type of leadership can have. Let’s go “lookin’ for these leaders”.