I’m always in awe when I watch old footage of famous leaders giving speeches. Sure the content and delivery is inspiring, but what really amazes me is the respect that leaders once got. Back then, when leaders spoke, people listened.
Fast forward to now, are we really listening to who is speaking or are we distracted by our phones and tablets? And if we are listening, are we going to use social media to judge and criticize what is said?
Despite the growing resources and technology to help leaders communicate, it’s not getting any easier. In fact, technology is really just adding another layer of complexity. Think back to the last meeting you were in– were you really paying attention? Or were you checking your phone? I am the first person to complain about meetings (and yes I am also guilty of bringing in my phone), but considering the amount of distractions we now have, is it any wonder why we need even more meetings?
But the real problem facing modern leaders is the fear of the growing internet lynch mob.
Think back to the last political speech you watched on TV. Were you really listening to what was said? Or were you opening up your Twitter and Facebook to read and join in the criticism? Because this is what we do these days right? We no longer respect those who lead, instead we seek out their flaws and blow everything out of proportion. We somehow feel the need to share our opinion.
Is our criticism just for the sake of criticism? Or are we critiquing in an attempt to stir up controversy or get likes or retweets? And is what we are saying in any way offering a helpful solution or takeaway?
The scary part is that if leaders fear how an audience will respond or react to what is being said, it inevitably forces them to change what they might say. For some people this might be a good thing, but if leaders are pandering to the public rather than speaking from their gut, then who is really leading who?
I think back to 1981, when US President Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers for violating a law that had prohibited them from striking. As the leader, he sent a very strong message: you are in violation of the law and if you do not report to work within 48 hours your job will be terminated. Whether you are for or against unions (or Republicans) is NOT my point–The point is that by firing over 12,000 people he took an extremely hard line–one that I am not so sure we would see today. Leaders nowadays don’t have the same freedom to say and do what they did 30 years ago. They are now accountable to the masses of opinionated Twitter accounts. And who wants to take that risk? Especially if re-election is around the corner.
I miss real leadership. I miss those who shared their vision and stuck to their gut no matter what the consequences or outcry would be. I know they still exist somewhere in some crowd, but I can’t help but to think it’s a diminishing group. One that we are contributing to destroying.
Even as a writer I think of the many times where I quickly hit the backspace and retracted what I was going to say to avoid being attacked by readers who may not share my opinion. I even did it to this article. I cringe to admit that I too am somewhat influenced by how others might respond. But for someone as outspoken as I am, maybe a quick pause to reflect isn’t such a bad thing.