There’s Something Going Wrong Around Here

September 25, 2020

Russ Ewell

Listen to the podcast episode based on this article entitled “The Need For Leaders.

Permanence, perseverance, and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: it is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.

Thomas Carlyle, from Fearless Leadership

Something I have learned in over six months of COVID-19 induced lockdowns, limits, threats, paranoia, and stress is that pandemics disorient, distract, disrupt, and derail. Personally, whether it is true or not, my mind believes I am far busier than I was pre-pandemic.

Here’s how I define the aforementioned afflictions:

  • Disoriented – losing my sense of direction and purpose
  • Distracted – dominated by the urgent instead of focusing on the important
  • Disrupted – completely losing emotional discipline
  • Derailed – abandoning the vision

My stress, fatigue, and fear levels, never low, have escalated. Thanks to yoga and spirituality, my sanity is restored and my hope is renewed on a daily basis. And while they keep me soul-strong instead of soul-weak, I assure you that the best thing for me will be for the pandemic to end (and if you live in California as I do, for the fires to stop burning).

So why, in the middle of a pandemic (or if you listen to the William Safire defined “nattering nabobs of negativism”), would I choose to launch “Lead Different?”

Let me answer in the words of Joe Jackson who asked the question, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” and said, “Cause if my eyes don’t deceive me, there’s something going wrong around here.

For the first time in my comparatively long life, when I scan the leadership landscape in the U.S. and around the world, it is obvious to me that we are in a leadership crisis.  There are leaders, but at a time of great challenge, we need great leaders.

Where are our generation’s Lincolns and Sewards, Roosevelts and Trumans, Kennedys and Kings? Where are our Marvin Gayes and Bob Dylans? We need our own Harriett Tubmans, Helen Kellers, Rosa Parks, Margaret Thatchers, and Lucille Balls. Where are the nameless leaders in communities around the world creating solutions to problems that government and corporations cannot solve?

My answer to this question is that they are there, but in too small a number because many who have the perspective and passion to change this world are too afraid to lead. In these cases, the individual lacks the courage, knowledge, or support necessary to lead.

  • Courage – internal and deep work
  • Knowledge – intellectual study and experience
  • Support – deep, consistent, and unconditional mentorship

Lead Different is my contribution to a new generation of leaders – for the older who have never led, the younger who want to lead, and the failed leader who wonders if he or she has a second act in them.

My hope is to start conversations, knowing that for me this is exploration more than certainty. I believe the study of leadership is evolutionary⁠—always changing, improving, and teaching us. And if we listen carefully, as Robin Williams said in Dead Poet’s Society, we might hear voices encouraging us to “seize the day” and become leaders ourselves.

Here is how I hope to help.

  1. Lead Different Newsletter – delivered to your inbox for weekend reflection
  2. Lead Different Podcast – expanding on the content of the newsletter
  3. Lead Different Podcast Transcription – making it easy to go deeper
  4. My Leadership Notebook – see my personal notes and thinking

P.S. Writing is something I enjoy. Writing is difficult, stressful, frustrating, but only when writing for others. When I write for myself, partial thoughts, grammatical errors, and less than well-crafted sentences are part of the joy. My special joy is being able to write sentences approaching the robustness of Marcel Proust, who was known to create lengths exceeding 200 words.

My leadership notebook

The following are my handwritten notes illustrating my thoughts and ideas still in development. I’d like to give you a window into my thought process each week, in hopes that it will inspire you to unleash your own creativity and embrace imperfection.