My reaction to the inaugural ceremony today surprised me. I found it extraordinarily reassuring and it brought me to tears.
When I started Path Forward Leadership 20 years ago, I established the mission of the business to be the reduction of human suffering. We live this mission by giving as many people as possible the opportunity to work with competent and caring leaders.
Even as I’ve continued to teach the idea that leaders matter – that they have a huge influence on our lives, and therefore should exhibit the highest character of anyone in our lives — I have been somewhat oblivious to or dismissive of the impact of the past 4 years on my psyche and spirit.
That was until I saw Republicans and Democrats alike, on the platform, extending respect and appreciation to one another, honoring deeply held cultural norms, and generally seeming to say, “O.K. we can do this.” When the tears showed up for me – tears of relief, mourning, and joy –they were a reminder that as tough as I believe myself to be, as world-weary and cynical as I can be at times, I also have to acknowledge the powerful impact of my relationship with my leaders on my well-being.
I didn’t listen much to the speeches or the prayers or the poems, although they had their important place in the ceremony to be sure.
What affected me instead was just watching the demeanor of the leaders who showed up – and noticing who didn’t. Just by being there, by standing when they were asked to stand, and sitting when they were asked to sit, and showing deep respect for the process and the tradition, they helped me heal just a little bit and grab on to a little bit of hope.
Sometimes just showing up –with respect, with open hearts, and with dignity, is what’s needed most. Followers always need their leaders to show up well, and today that was brought home to me in a very personal way as some of my own modest share of our collective suffering began to ease.