There’s a magnet on my refrigerator, it’s the oft quoted Gandhi statement “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” In terms of leadership authenticity and putting the power of role-modeling into practice – it’s a great quote. I find it a nice reminder to figure out what I can do to live my values and to do it.
But I got to thinking, what about inspiring people to understand and create change together? I wish there were a quote like “understand the change you want, the change others want for themselves, learn from each other, find common ground, and work together to make it happen.”
Before I say anything else, I want to clarify: I firmly believe that one person can create a great deal of positive change. In some cases one person is able to accomplish something more impressive than large groups of people ever could. Another favorite quote of mine, from Margaret Mead, is “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” But can we change how we change (and how we lead change) so that more people work together and so change benefits more people?
Our perspectives of how we think about and enact change are often very different from one another. The publication Flipping the Script does a wonderful job illustrating how perspectives influence community development work. The assumption that we agree on what is needed and desired can do a lot of harm and reinforce the gaps and friction between us. It’s like Marie Antoinette saying “Let them eat cake” to the hungry masses. I think she meant well, but the statement did more to illustrate the gap between her experience and the experiences of those around her. Worse yet, it did it in a way that exacerbated the issue rather than illuminating it or making progress towards solving it.
Effective leadership, in my view, is simultaneously selfish and altruistic and thus rests firmly on self-awareness and other-awareness. It’s the “other-awareness” bit that I need to work on more … so while I’m trying to “be the change” I need a reminder to understand the changes others are wanting and trying to “be.”