December 1st, 2010
One of the clear messages I take away from our program about President Obama and leadership is the importance of inspiration and the travails of both hope and fear.
First hope and fear. When President Obama was a presidential candidate, he stirred hope in young and old. He activated a significant portion of the population who had long ago abandoned the political process and believed that there was no reason to trust any politician with the possibility of change.
Hope is a powerful activator. It can brings tens of thousands of people to their feet and get them into action. Hope, unfortunately is the flip side of an equally powerful activator – Fear.
Hope is a tenuous feeling. In general hope must bring immediate results or we quickly become uncertain of its potential.
As we gave up the Hope that we felt so strongly with President Obama we went to the other side of that pendulum. We became afraid. Fear is a feeling we are far more familiar with than hope. Fear will motivate us to abandon good reason and to allow acts that we don’t believe in to be carried out.
Fear brings us also to our feet and into action. The action of fear is repression and contraction. Fear is inflamed by much of our media and a leading presidential contender for 2012 is using this powerful emotion to attract interest and support.
In time of fear, we become more and more consumed with what is broken and our tribal instincts are more acute. Its often a time when bigotry and discrimination rise.
There is a middle road that can bring people together without the wild emotional ride of hope or fear. This middle road is inspiration. Lance Secretan said the difference between motivation and inspiration is that motivation lights a fire under you and inspiration lights a fire within you.
In the situation we are in, we require great leaders. Leaders who can inspire rather than motivate. The modern political campaigns are almost exclusively about motivation. This is why we have to regenerate our energies each time there is an election.
Inspiration is about having people see the value of change from a very personal perspective. Change that will create a world that we believe will be better not only for ourselves but for many others.
When I think of great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela, I can see their ability to inspire. They inspired people to do the right thing even when they were afraid. They inspired people to do the right thing because it benefited all. They inspired people to do the right thing without violence or recrimination.
Inspiration is not about emotional highs. Inspiration is about inner strength and certainty. Support those who inspire. Let them be the leaders we encourage and rally around. For true inspiration is the only way out of our current situation of fear and anger.
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