In the beginning of May, I had the chance to deliver a keynote address for Leadership Charlotte, an organization whose mission is to develop volunteer community leadership throughout the Queen City. With the area tackling enormous challenges in health care, poverty, and housing, I was brought in to help businesses and nonprofits explore what it means to be a leader in the 21st century so that they can provide greater service to those who are most in need.
Well, in an orchestra, the conductor is the most powerful person on stage, but they do not make a sound. What gives them power is their ability to hear the music right in front of them. And when the music sounds the worst, the duty of the conductor is to cut the music and listen even closer. So in life, why do we so often shut our ears to the sounds that do no match our desires? Why do we so often turn away from the performers who need our guidance the most? Perhaps we are scared that if we look closely enough at the imperfections of others... then we might see ourselves.
To be a leader in this chaotic 21st century is not to be the loudest or the most declarative. It is having the ability to look directly at the suffering of another without turning away from them.