The divisiveness in the world today is all the evidence we need that we have entered the “Age of Meaning.” Our fragile society convulses with the recognition that what has come before no longer serves us and what will be has not quite taken shape. It is into this middle ground, this breach of both opportunity and uncertainty, that today’s leaders must step if tomorrow’s world will become what it must.
Those leaders, powerful in their conviction and beautiful in their humanity, will hold that space because they have demonstrated the ability to express the elements of meaningful change. They will have equipped themselves – through courageous discovery and deep commitment – to speak in three essential ways:
First, they will speak with the voice of understanding. They will articulate a depth of knowledge about who they are and what they believe. They will start within, never asking someone else to change before they have done so themselves. It is their modeling we will honor, their going first we will prize, because it will offer both the permission and the push we need to do it ourselves.
Second, they will speak with the voice of connection. Their strength of understanding will fortify them to reach out, building relationships of mutuality and trust regardless of power or position. They will make themselves known to us first as human beings, inviting relationships based on essential truths rather than of convenience or opportunism. Their vulnerability will knit us together, a catalyst for common purpose and greater impact.
Finally, they will speak with the voice of exploration. Learning, always learning, will be their invitation, their expectation. They will refuse the seduction of the status quo and will rely on us to help them do so. Together, we will question, challenge, invite and listen. We will examine our need for certainty, our resistance to change, as we take the tentative and purposeful steps we must take to reach the edge of our understanding. And then we will go further.
We are at the dawn of the “Age of Meaning,” the full possibility of which will be revealed by those leaders who speak it into existence. More and more, people are listening for a better way. Will you speak to them? Will you be heard?
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world, especially the parts where he doesn’t handle it very well.