Community leadership starts in the mirror. It is the ability and willingness to use YOUR influence to better others and the world you live in. A song that has always spoken to me is Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” As many of us do, I have my go to playlist that is packed full of my all-time favorite songs. I personally like to let the playlist shuffle so the songs are played in random order. Every time this song comes over the speakers or through my ear buds, it reminds me how much there is to unpack in the lyrics. The song was released almost thirty-five years ago, but rings as true as ever today regarding the challenges that face our world, nation, and local communities. Here are four lessons we can learn as community leaders from this song:
Community Leaders Are Burdened
As a community leader, you are burdened by the challenges facing your community. Every great community project, every charity, every cause, and every generational movement starts with a burden. It is the inability to just walk by somebody in need or something in disrepair. Throughout the song he references burdens, “I see the kids in the streets, with not enough to eat…that there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan…a willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart…a washed-out dream.” The song tugs at our hearts and then asks the question, “who am I to be blind…pretending not to see their needs?” It easier to keep driving through that intersection than to carry the burden. Depending on your world it may be a child you teach with a learning disability, a friend with an addiction, a resident unable to keep the lights on, an employee having trouble making ends meet, a player starting to hang around the wrong crowd, or a member of your congregation walking through cancer.
The music video of the song starts out with scenes depicting poverty, starvation, racism, violence, war, dictatorships, and assassinations of great leaders. Towards the end of the song the scenes depict those leaders who chose to make the world a better place. They did not decide to just pass through the intersection of opportunity to make the world a better place. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the civil rights movement, President Ronald Reagan and his efforts to end the Cold War, the brave men and women of public safety that rescued “Baby Jessica” from a well, Ghandi, Mother Theresa and more. As a community leader you shoulder those burdens to better others and the world you live in.
I Am In Control Of One Thing
Whenever this song comes on it reminds me of my greatest challenge, but yet the only thing I have complete control over in my life, me. As leaders in our communities, we have the best of intentions. We aspire to make everyone and everything we come in contact with better. Sometimes that can lead to us wanting to control outcomes. It can be exhaustive when we shoulder those burdens. The harder we try to control outcomes, the more slippery our grasp on the situation gets. We can no longer keep hold. That is why focusing on what you can control is so important. You! The man or the women in the mirror. Check out the chorus from the song:
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
If you have heard this song before, good luck in getting it out of your head the rest of the day! You may have even kept going, “Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah!” If you are too young to know the song, the link to the video is provided at the end. It is a classic. Craig Groeschel’s Leadership Podcast is one of my top three that I subscribe to. I highly recommend you subscribe too. In every episode he reminds the listener that “when the leader gets better, everyone gets better.” Sometimes you have to focus on you in order to better others and the world you live in.
The Mirror Does Not Lie
Here is the thing about mirrors, they can be brutally honest with you. It is a daily intersection we do not always want to go through. If you did not sleep well, it is honest with you. If you have not been to the gym in a while, it is honest with you! You cannot change, deceive, or manipulate what you see when you look into it. You are looking right back at you, no one else.
Self-reflection is not always easy but is essential in a leader’s life. In fact, it can be one of the hardest things we do each day if we are willing. We do not wake up each morning looking for ways to be more critical of ourselves or ways to find more fault in our difficult circumstances. We can all agree that it is much easier for us to point the finger elsewhere when we fall short. It is way harder to be honest with ourselves. It is more challenging. In my twenty plus year career, the most refreshing quality of a team member is the ability to be self-aware. Practice daily in the mirror.
You Are A Difference Maker
Later in the song he references that “you have got to make that change.” The words that follow this are crucial, “today.” If we want to make the community we serve a better place, make it a point to start with the man or woman in the mirror. You. Community leader. Today. Make that change. Choose to make a difference in the life of that student, friend, resident, employee, player, or member. Be the person today that uses your influence to better others and the world you live in. The song says it will “feel real good.” It starts with you!
Challenge yourself below with the ordinary to extraordinary intersection. Then, take five minutes and three seconds to inspire yourself by watching the music video here. Add it to your playlist as a constant reminder of our burden to make the world a better place.
Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection
What burdens you? Am I stopping at those intersections or going right through them? Take a look in the mirror. What changes do you need to make today? How can those changes better others and the world you live in?