If you own a DVD of Ken Burn’s The War, you have seen a quote on the front cover that says “In extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives”. What a wonderful summary of the essence of that documentary! Americans of that generation deserve their reputation as “the greatest generation”.
Now it is our turn. This is a leadership website, so I suggest that quote can now read “In extraordinary times, there are no ordinary leaders.” We can’t afford ordinary. The world has changed dramatically, with the people we lead being far different today than they were yesterday.
In a time where few are confident in their job security, personal net worth greatly eroded and house values keep falling, your employees are in a far different place than they were as recently as mid-2008. Whether they tell you or not, many of them are nervous about their lives, and their futures. Very few people have seen times like these. For the majority of us, this is a once in a lifetime retrenchment of the world economy with all of the political shifts that will occur still too early to see.
Trust in our institutions has been forever altered. Who trusts our government agencies, financial institutions or political representatives now? We may hope they come around, but it will be a long time for these parties to regain public trust.
The challenge for leaders in this time of fear and doubt, is to be something more than ordinary. It would serve us well to take the same approach those of the previous “greatest generation” did when faced with overwhelming issues and challenges. They simply did their jobs as best as they could, while believing in a cause worth fighting for.
Today’s leaders who can give their followers a reason to believe and hope that a more certain future lies just ahead, these will be the leaders who, in looking back, we say were extraordinary leaders for extraordinary times.