July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day in the United States. We commemorate the day we declared our independence from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson, a plantation owner from Charlottesville, Virginia, drafted the Declaration of Independence.
This 4th of July, the Boston Pops will not play Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” for those of us in the Boston area as cannons fire. Fireworks will not light the sky over the Charles River. Americans will celebrate the 4th at home or in small gatherings of family and friends.
The human species is under attack by another species – a virus. As humans, we have become threats to each other. The scope of the COVID-19 pandemic is unique in human history. At this moment of anxiety, some citizens are in the street calling for long overdue justice and others are burning our neighborhoods. And government is failing at many levels.
Americans and citizens of many countries cherish independence. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. A yearning for freedom and independence is part of our humanity. Each of us wants independence from our parents, our teachers, our boss, and dictatorial leaders. Citizens of some countries are still not free.
July 4th, 2020, is a unique moment to challenge ourselves and consider what independence means to us as individuals, as citizens, and as leaders.
With independence comes responsibility. We are responsible for our lives, our communities, and the organizations we lead. The life we live is the life we create. We create the community in which we live. The country in which we live is the country we create. Our community can be a place with opportunity, justice, and peace when that is the community we create.
As leaders, we have a particularly difficult job. We are expected to be decisive and choose the path forward. We have independence. But we are responsible for our company, our community, and our country. We cannot act just for ourselves. We are responsible for those who vested us with trust and the role of leader.
As leaders, we must be decisive. We must also be vulnerable. We must be open to other points of view and different ways to look at the challenges we face. We may not fully understand the opportunity or challenge. The best idea for a path forward may not be our idea. The best idea may come from someone who does not think like us, look like us, or speak our language.
The great idea that inspires and changes everything may come from religious refugees from Delft, Holland, from a guy standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square, from a Jewish scientist escaping Nazi Germany, from an itinerant country lawyer from Illinois, from a plantation owner in Virginia, from a preacher from Atlanta, Georgia, or from our mom urging us to “Do the right thing.”
Celebrate Independence Day. Independence means opportunity – for our company, our community, and our country to become its best. Independence means responsibility. Are we liberating the best in our organization and in ourselves? Are the best performers rewarded? Do the best ideas come forward? Are there barriers to implementing the best ideas?
We can also ask ourselves about barriers we have to ideas that can make us a better leader and a better person. Independence means we are free to become the best person we can be.
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