It’s impossible not to feel the pressure building in society. There’s no escape. It’s spread from media (social or otherwise) to every aspect of our lives. You may have felt it at a recent family gathering or found yourself shocked to see it show up at your daughter’s soccer game. You don’t know how to describe it, whether it’s manufactured or real, and what might happen once it pops. You just know it’s growing.
We don’t seem to like each other. That’s how you’d describe it in a sentence. Maybe we never did, and maybe we’ve been here before, but something feels different. Then again, it’s possible we do like each other, and we’re being manipulated to feel the opposite by the worst among us. You’re not sure which is worse. That we dislike each other or that we allow ourselves to be trained to treat each other this way. The pressure doesn’t care. It keeps growing unabated. It can’t go on like this forever. Can it?
We take the simple act of existing for granted. Or so they say. As to the charge, the defense could rest on a question: what do you expect? Sacrifices must be made in order to conduct one’s life in an agreeable manner. Agreeable to others, of course. No thought can be spared on the frivolous question of what we’d like to do with our existence. There are meetings to attend, to-dos to be checked, and scores that need settling.
Contemplating modern existence is an unenviable task. You could try squeezing it in while your VR headset is charging, but nowadays, those things last longer than the Energizer Bunny. Suppose you do find yourself with some free time on your hands. In such a moment, you might wonder if there’s ever been a period—from the beginning of mankind to the present—when human beings have struggled more to determine the difference between the ephemeral and the eternal, between what matters and what doesn’t, where we can have an impact and where we can’t.
What we lack is leadership. That’s obvious; everyone agrees. Discord ensues on who is a good leader, how leaders should behave, and what good leadership looks like. This isn’t a political treatise. We must accept the state of affairs in Washington, D.C., and capitals around the world. Those places are gone, long gone, gone for good. It’s time to act accordingly.
What do the great, revered leaders have in common? You’re unlikely to find the answer on LinkedIn. Yes, it matters what time you woke up (and that you woke up at all—what a gift!), the water’s temperature in the shower, and whether you got a workout in. That’s not leadership. It is something, though. One could categorize it as self-leadership. It’s a more public display of the “make your own bed in the morning” concept. Meaning it’s a not insignificant personal (and somewhat public) assessment of your ability to lead yourself. After all, if you can’t lead yourself, who’s to say you can lead others?
On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine Churchill doing a cold plunge after a five-mile run each morning. We’ve come to understand he started drinking at breakfast, constantly smoked cigars, and made time for long baths and naps in the middle of the workday. The perfect daily regimen to defeat Hitler and win World War II.
Your personal habits don’t make you a good leader. In fact, too many bad ones could be your ruin. There appear to be two traits found within great leaders, past and present, that consistently manifest time and time again:
1) Inextinguishable and unlimited determination to succeed.
2) Instinctive proficiency in discerning when to convince and when to convene.
It’s unclear whether either trait can be taught, but let’s give No. 2 the old college try. We must start with definitions. In this context, the author’s definitions, as opposed to Merriam-Webster’s.
Convincer (kuhn-vins-her) noun An adult leader who perpetually attempts to convince everyone they’re smart, hold the correct opinions, and—they can’t stress this enough—unequivocally deserve to be in charge.
Convener (kuhn-veen-her) noun An adult leader capable of convening a group of people more intelligent and experienced to listen, learn from, and—they can’t stress this enough—ultimately make some damn progress.
While we desperately need conveners, we live in a world of convincers. A convincer already knows everything there is to know, and they feel obligated to convince the rest of us to hold their exact opinions or views. A convincer will even go so far as to project an opinion or motivation onto someone who holds no such view to allow themselves to continue convincing. A convincer’s thirst to be right can never be quenched. As a consequence, nothing is possible unless a convincer deems it so.
A convener doesn’t care about any of that. Who cares who’s right? A convener is happy to be wrong. It means they put themselves in a position to learn something and gain a perspective previously out of reach. A convener knows it’s impossible to understand one’s motives, desires, and aspirations without first engaging in constructive dialogue and getting to know them as a fellow human being. A convener treats everyone like they matter, seeks understanding and progress, and knows the perfect outcome or resolution is a myth. A convener gets things done.
What would society look like if more leaders used their influence and talents to convene instead of convince?
We’re launching an invitation-only, highly curated network of the world’s best CEOs. We're only letting 500 leaders join at this time. Apply now.
CEO.com founder, CEO