Inevitably, there comes a time, in fact many times over the personal and professional life of a great leader, when he or she must honestly, openly, yet humbly “take a firm and clear stand” on critical issues of the day. Great leaders very carefully and thoughtfully select these times and issues, for they know that their current and future effectiveness as a leader is vulnerable and at “high risk” during these critical times.
The following example, from the book entitled The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, is a great example of this critically important point:
When Lincoln’s friends urged him not to make his famous “house divided against itself” speech, Lincoln replied, “Friends, the time has come when these sentiments should be uttered, and if it is decreed that I should go down because of this speech, then let me go down linked with the truth.”
To the replies of his critics that he had overthrown his chances of victory and had ruined the opportunities of his party he said, “If I had to draw a pen across my record and erase my whole life from sight, and I had one poor gift or choice left as to what I should save from the wreck, I should choose that speech and leave it to the world unerased.”
As a leader, when the time clearly comes to take a stand, where are you? When the time comes, no matter the difficulty or risk, to speak the truth or take a clear stand for what is right, where are you?
In this day and age – which, by the way, has been true in virtually every day and age – when most so-called leaders are faced with the reality of needing to publicly take a difficult or high-risk stand on an issue, they literally run… they sprint for the nearest perceived shelter and hiding place. This reality is easily proven via one reading of a major newspaper or one dose of a national or international TV news broadcast.
Leaders are promoted, paid and expected to LEAD. They are promoted, paid and expected to teach, coach, mentor, support, build people up, reinforce that which is good and right, clear away obstacles that are holding people back, and do what is necessary to help and encourage “their people” to succeed.
Some may wonder why President Abraham Lincoln is so highly admired and respected… even to this day. One need look no further than Lincoln’s statement to his friends, to all Americans and to the world:
“Friends, the time has come when these sentiments should be uttered, and if it is decreed that I should go down because of this speech, then let me go down linked with the truth.”
If you, as a leader, had to draw a pen across your record and erase your whole life from sight, and you had one poor gift or choice left as to what you could save from the wreck, what would you choose and leave to the world un-erased?
To put it bluntly, Lincoln had the leadership intelligence, the guts, and a broad enough perspective to follow truth and what is right, to take a public stand when appropriate, knowing full well that he would have no choice but to live with the results, most of which were beyond his control, for the rest of his life… and for his eternal legacy. That, my friends, is what great leaders do!
Following the example of one of the greatest leaders in the history of America and the world, it may be time, once again, for you and me to carefully reexamine just exactly where we stand on the critical issues facing the people we lead. Not only where we stand… but also, what are we doing about it?