On September 11th, 2001- four airplanes crashed into our very souls as a people, rattling us to the core. Where was the off switch? It was all so very… crushing. The endless flood of images pummeled us. Our masks of emotional distance lay shattered upon the ground. Then they appeared as if on cue, blank looks, dead stares, as they walked out from the war zone covered in ash, barely recognizable as human beings. It was just too much to bare and so we wept. We wept with our loved ones. We wept with complete strangers. This can’t be happening. But it did happen. And as leaders, we needed to heed the call.
The greatest thing an executive will ever be entrusted with is the human spirit. We can view that gift as an honor and privilege, the chance to really make a difference; or we could squander that gift, letting power and selfishness get in the way. People were afraid and uncertain. Veteran road warriors were no longer willing to travel by air. Business as usual came to an abrupt halt. The nation had shut down. After 9-11, we had some tough challenges ahead of us. Would we lower our emotional walls? Would we be able to offer the kind of intimacy and nurturing uncommon is the business world? People were very afraid- they needed our reassurance, our counsel and above all- our strength.
Then it happened.
The shopkeepers and merchants, one-by-one, returned to their stores. The television commercials we love to complain about returned to the airwaves and somehow, that was reassuring. Sales reps courageously stepped back onto the very airplanes they most feared, all in the name of moving forward . Start-ups found financing. All across this great country of ours, in board rooms small and large, executives were yet again promoting their visions for the future. Our adversaries had vastly underestimated our resolve, our resiliency, the strength of our character and the strength of our leaders. It wasn’t dramatic, it just slowly happened.
The human spirit, cradled in the hands of dedicated executives and their teams, companies with heart and soul, CEO’s with passion- all of them and many others, rose to the occasion and heeded the call. It’s a wonderful thing, to be a leader. It’s certainly not an easy job but every now and then, you get to make a difference. Those are the moments you remember and cherish.
After 9-11, leaders from every walk of life and sector, for-profit and non-profit, made America proud. We did what we do, we provided leadership and strength, to help people move on without ever forgetting the sacrifices of so many. That, my friends, is what character in leadership is all about.
Food For Thought-
In memory of all those that we lost on September 11th, 2001; and to all those that serve in our military, with us and not. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
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