[January 1, 2021] Greetings! So began the letter’s salutation from the U.S. Government draft board. Still, in High School and 17 years old, the letter did not surprise me. However, it was to put me on a journey that ended many decades later. What I learned along the way was that trust is at the core of being a good soldier and a requirement to be a successful leader.
Welcome to the New Year 2021. Let us all strive for a better year by working harder, focusing better, telling the truth always, adopting responsibility, and trusting more. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t “hope” for a better year. We all know that hope is not an effective strategy. My plan is to work for it.
By tradition on my leadership blog, I list the challenges/obstacles that leaders can expect to encounter in the upcoming year. Today’s article will show where the pitfalls might be located and what a leader can do about them. Foremost, “what we can do about it” begins with us as individuals. We must do those things that make us better, stronger, and more resilient.
In my last post of the year in 2020, for example, I discussed the idea of using ethical guides as tools to check ourselves to verify we continue to embody and live our professional values. Ethical leaders will be tested. We will always be tested as we approach obstacles in the way of moral and ethical behavior. Let us not be discouraged but renewed in the sense that what we do morally will echo in ways that we cannot ever see but know that we do make a positive difference.
The first obstacle for leaders this year will be the loss of trust and confidence in our social institutions. Whether that lack of trust translates into action or inaction will depend upon our perceptions. Driven by a news media that is ideologically unsympathetic to Western democratic principles, many people will lose their way. More cynically, we have social media companies that openly censor liberal free speech. They are not unlike the Nazis burning books in the 1930s.
A second obstacle will be political turmoil at the federal level of the U.S. government. It matters not that you live outside the United States or within. The impact of a government that strives for political power as an end in and of itself will mean divisiveness among the populace, friends turning against friend, strangers resorting to violence in the streets, and politicians giving their approval. How good leaders deal with this may be a measure of the outcome years from now.
And third, a move to throw basic ethical standards out the window and our failure to have the moral courage to do anything about it. The lack of moral courage will cause us problems that are mostly unforeseeable in specifics yet predictable in the destruction we will witness. The waning of moral courage is a perilous development because it allows evil forces (those that would do harm to us) to grow and prosper.
I will put many of these obstacles up for discussion. I will also strive to discuss real solutions. Please accept my best for you and your families in our New Year 2021. It’s going to as much an exciting ride, and it will be a challenging one.