Now and then, I feel the need to have a little rant. Luckily, for us all, it doesn’t happen that often. Today’s little rant is about change.
Whenever I think of the challenge of change, I think of Sally Field, well, not Sally Field exactly, her character, Norma Rae. I picture Norma, all five feet of her, standing on a table with her arms held high, holding a sign that simply says “Union”. She stands on that table in defiance of her bosses, and on behalf of her often frightened and reluctant co-workers. She does it because deep inside herself she knows it to be right. It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth the risk. It will make life better in the end. I notice her face as she’s standing there. I see rebellion, fear and desperation. And yet she stands there until the local police come and drag her away kicking and screaming. Take a little time to watch this and you’ll see what I mean.
That’s the thing about change, the revolutionary kind anyway. It’s hard and scary and sometimes involves some kicking and screaming. That sort of change is rarely the kind we eagerly put our hands up for. That’s when leadership and those who practice it are truly tested.
Today, there are those of us who long for a time when our world could be like it was before our global economy took a frightening plunge. There are people without jobs who have lost their houses and the way of life they have become accustomed to. To so many, it feels, and is, catastrophic and terrifying. There are others who are less affected directly and see no reason to change their habits or their perspectives, those who fail to see that they are part of the problem…and part of the solution.
The job of leadership in times such as these requires the kind of grit that Norma Rae showed as she climbed upon her table and stood her ground. In these times, change means hard work, hard heads, hard times and tender hearts. And it’s not about one or two people leading everyone else out of the wilderness either. We are all responsible. We must all find a new way of being in the world. Those who lead will have a vision of the future. They will put themselves forward to be followed; to be challenged; to be criticized; and sometimes to be scorned but they will each stand on their respective tables with their vision of better times held firmly in their hands.
The good ones will not make promises to bring back the past. They will not waste their time, or ours, denigrating each other. Instead, they will hold a firm vision of how things could be should we choose to act differently. They will find ways to work together and to include us all by demanding our participation in building something else, something better…just like Norma Rae did.