Leadership Lessons from Boston

I was often in my hometown outside of Boston during the weeks during and following the Boston Marathon bombings. As I listened to President Obama, Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Menino in public statements and news conferences,  I was struck by their leadership - especially during their addresses in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

What I noticed was the skill with which they reached out to engage the greatness in their listeners. As you know by now, "engaging the greatness in others" is one of 3 interdependent leadership skills identified in my definition of leadership.

Here are a few examples of how they did this. As you review them, think about how you could do the same in your leadership role.

From President Obama
"You’ve shown us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good. In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion. In the face of those who would visit death upon innocents, we will choose to save and to comfort and to heal. We’ll choose friendship. We’ll choose love."
Rather than call for vengeance and retribution, he chose to focus on compassion and love. And later he reminds the people of Boston of their inner strength and the support of others.
"And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us -- to push on. To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on. We finish the race. We finish the race.
And we do that because of who we are. And we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody is there to boost our spirits. On that toughest mile, just when we think that we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick us up if we fall. We know that."
From Governor Patrick
"I am thankful maybe most especially for the countless numbers of people in this proud city and storied Commonwealth who in the aftermath of such senseless violence let their first instinct be kindness. In a dark hour so many of you showed so many of us that darkness can not drive out darkness as Dr. King said.
...we're organized around a handful of civic ideals...equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play...we must not permit darkness and hate to triumph over our civic faith. It cannot happen, it will not. We will recover and repair, we will grieve our losses and heal, we will rise and we will endure. We will have accountability without vengeance, vigilance without fear....the grace this tragedy exposed is the best of who we are."
 And Mayor Menino whose theme was love.
"It is a good morning because we are together, we are one Boston. No adversity, no challenge, nothing can tear down the resilience, the heart of this city and its people...love has covered this resilient city...Love the brave ones who felt the blast, but still raced to the smoke...We love the fathers and brothers who took shirts off their backs to stop the bleeding. The mothers and the sisters who cared for the injured. The neighbors and business owners the homeowners all across the city who opened their doors and their hearts to the worried and the scared...we'll get through this together."
In his own way, each of these politicians sought, grabbed hold of and held up to the light all that is great in the people of Boston. They called for unity rather than divisiveness. They reminded people of their inner strength and how it compels caring acts. They help people turn aside fear. These are things that true leaders do - in all walks of life.

As you think about the challenges you face every day - new projects, changes in organization structure and threats from the external environment; ask yourself what greatness in those around me can I honor and proclaim? Whose spirit can I acknowledge? When faced with a challenge, how can I shine light on the greatness of your team members and give them strength to forge ahead?

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
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