We live in a time when posts, tweets, sound bites, slogans, and memes seem to define the substance of our culture and leadership. All of us have just gone through a grueling election cycle that has polarized our country (and the world). No one is pleased with the leadership options we have to choose from, and everyone is frustrated.
Ironically we all want leaders with a depth of character, an exemplary reputation, and quality leadership skills. The struggle we face is today’s leadership is many times constructed from these posts, tweets, sound bites, slogans, and memes. The depth of leadership character, quality and decision making is presented and viewed in no more than a sentence or two. Every passing minute is an illustration of 140 characters or less defining how leadership makes choices, presents themselves and impacts people’s lives.
We have a world full of sound bite leaders because our attention span and desire for depth has become so dysfunctional that we’ve reduced our leadership growth to:
- Going through our LinkedIn feed
- Reading a few blog posts a day
- Listening to a podcast or two every so often
- Following popular leaders on Twitter
- Being able to quickly regurgitate a popular leadership principle at the right moment
Consequently, respect for leadership has become a casualty.
“Clickbait media is not a nutritious diet.” –Shane Parrish
LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Image quotes, and blog posts are good things; but in context, they are the paint, carpet, furnishings, and decorations of our leadership home—not the foundation or structure.
“A word to the wise . . . take that internet stuff with a grain of salt; it betrays as much as it enlightens.” – Jack Bartlett, Heartland Episode 8.04
We all want to be great leaders, but quality leadership comes from a solid, deep leadership foundation. Small buildings have small footers, and huge skyscrapers have very deep foundations.
Proverbs 28:16a gives us a great perspective, “A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor . . . ” (ESV)
For over three months my son has had an ear infection. It started as an outer ear problem and a simple round of antibiotics. We have now been through four rounds of antibiotics and two more doctors, and it has developed into an inner ear Staph infection which may need surgery to remove it.
So we booked an appointment with a renowned ear doctor—one of best in the nation—and traveled six hours to see him.
The whole experience in his office exuded he was an expert at his craft. He asked tons of questions, went through every detail, examined both ears closely, and went over the CT scans with us pointing out things only the very best would be able to spot. He then prescribed a specific solution and went so far as to call the pharmacy to insure they could produce it. Our confidence and trust in him are off the chart because of his extensive knowledge and commitment to learning. Leadership follows the same pattern; building a solid leadership foundation takes a commitment to learning.
Building a solid leadership foundation takes growing a deep understanding of leadership.
- Knowing what principles need to be used gives leaders a deep understanding of all the key leadership principles and how they fit together.
- Knowing that timing is everything, leaders understand that timing can hurt or help the people and the plan.
- Knowing how to make things happen is how leaders grease the wheels and keep gas in the tank. They know when the engine isn’t running right and fix it before it blows up.
Everyone can be a sound bite leader. To be great leaders, we need a lifelong commitment to learning and understanding—where every day we deepen our foundation to be a leader people will want to follow.
Want to prevent being a sound bite leader? Here are a couple related posts that will help:
One Leadership Trait That Trumps All Others
The Secret Sauce to Becoming a Great Leader