There is a shortage of great leaders. I recently read an article that reported the shortage of leaders as the most pressing human resource challenge that businesses are facing. This is a crisis. The gap between the challenges we face is increasing faster than the ability, or the will, to produce the leadership necessary to shorten the deficit.
It’s graduation time! I’ve been thinking about the challenges these young people will face as they enter the workforce, and thought they could use a bit of advice. As you read the letter, ask yourself if you have become the kind of leader that our world is demanding our graduates to strive to be. If the answer is no, use it as a call to action. Take an inventory of your training, skills, capabilities, and effectiveness and do the right thing. Now is the time and as mentioned in the letter, we are all counting on you too! And be sure to share this with the new grads in your life!
A Letter to Graduates
Congratulations! You’ve done it! You are now officially graduates! Find the time to celebrate. You definitely deserve it. Be very proud of yourselves as this is one of the greatest accomplishments that you will experience. You have learned many things about both your limitations and your capabilities and now it is time to go out and make a difference in a world hungry for your many talents. As you navigate through life in search of new knowledge and experiences to build on your foundation, I offer this advice to take with you on your leadership journey:
- Ask questions. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~Steven R. Covey Everyone has a journey, knowledge and their own worldview. As you embark on your path of understanding, be receptive to and question all other people no matter how different they are from you, in either appearance or thought. In fact, the more different they are, the more your own worldview will expand.
- Think before you act. Take the time to give yourself a chance to process your words and actions before you proceed. Create in your mind’s eye a story, complete with a beginning and end, of the path you are about to take. Evaluate the imagined results to increase your chances of a successful outcome.
- Never stop learning. You can put away your books, but you must always be a student. The world is dynamic. We will never know all that there is to know. The best we can do is to keep our minds and hearts open to this wonderfully vibrant creation.
- Listen. A colleague once told me, that the greatest gift you can give someone is to listen. Spend less time talking and more time listening. Hearing is not the same as listening. Hearing just happens; listening is intentional. Effective listening is an art that must be learned and constantly practiced.
- Constantly evaluate your surroundings. Be present and aware. Put down your cell phone and interact with the people around you. Don’t be a bystander. You must anticipate and prepare for anything and everything you may encounter.
- Be empathetic. In my opinion, empathy is the greatest trait a leader can have. Walk a mile in your own shoes and you will get to the next town. Walk a mile in everyone else’s shoes and you will get around the world. I can’t say it better than the author, Daniel H. Pink: “Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.”
- Find something to believe in. Find a cause, religion, a community organization, politics, or all of the above. If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. Leaders always find a way to give of themselves to aid in the betterment of the world. Perform small acts of kindness: lend a hand, cause a smile, wipe a tear, warm a heart – give of yourself in these ways, and I promise, you will be rewarded.*
As graduates and future leaders, we are all counting on you. Find your place in the world and use all that you have and will learn, to, as Michael Jackson said, “Make it a better place for you and me.” *This life insurance commercial from Thailand captures it best.