“A leader does not deserve the name, unless they are willing occasionally to stand alone" ~ Henry Kissinger
Empowerment and leadership go hand-in-hand.
To be a great leader it helps to have experience, knowledge, resources, and skills to set you apart. However, the true key ingredient in successful leadership is feeling empowered. This means you need the confidence to step out in front, lead from the heart, and inspire others.
Feeling confident gives you the resolve to take risks, make mistakes and occasionally stand alone.
This weekend I saw the Steven Spielberg film The Post in the theater and was truly inspired by the story of Kay Graham (played by Meryl Streep). Kay was forced to confront a series of difficult leadership challenges when she reluctantly became the first female publisher of the Washington Post (she inherited this role from her late husband).
Kay quickly found herself embroiled in one of the greatest news stories of our time… the revelations in leaked top secret “Pentagon Papers.” (If you want to read more about this incredible story, I suggest this article by Vox.com's Alissa Wilkinson).
In the beginning, Kay struggles with self-doubt and wavers on important decisions while powerful men try to manipulate her. When the paper's Chief of Staff, Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks), comes into possession of the classified Pentagon Papers, Kay is torn between protecting the financial well-being of the company and preserving the journalistic integrity of the paper by honoring the First Amendment’s principles of free speech.
In a triumphant scene that made everyone in the theater cheer, we see Kay make a heroic decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in The Washington Post against an injunction from the Nixon Administration (and a potential violation of a lower Federal court ruling).
Kay risked going to jail and losing her company by standing up for what she thought was right.
Everything was on the line.
The Washington Post’s right to publish the Pentagon Papers was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court and led the way for newspapers across the country to publish them as well, exposing decades of government lies and misinformation.
Kay’s bold leadership helped The Washington Post transform itself from a relatively small local newspaper into one of the most prestigious and financially successful newspapers in the United States.
That is the kind of moment every leader must be ready for -- the moment when difficult decisions need to be made and bold actions must be taken. This is the time when a leader needs to demonstrate strength and inspire others with their courage and vision.
To seize this moment, you must be willing to take risks, make mistakes, and occasionally go it alone.
Your head might spin, your heart will pound and you could be putting your entire reputation on the line; but you might change the world while you're at it.
Do you have the confidence and resolve to lead the way and go it alone if it's in the service of something you care about?