Steve Goodier, Methodist minister and author of “One Minute Can Change a Life” (and a number of other books), tells the story of one of the greatest of USA story-tellers, Abraham Lincoln, related by the president during the American Civil War. A delegation of well-meaning patriots tried to impress upon the president the gravity of the war. In their presentation, they implied that his administration was neither as wise, nor good, as it ought to be. He listened carefully and then responded with a memorable anecdote.
He told them that he once had a neighbour who found himself in a tight situation. He was travelling home one dark and rainy night. There were few bridges in the country and he came to a stream that he would have to ford. Because of the darkness and the rain, however, he was unable to see well enough to know just where to cross.
Lightning flashed and he saw his way for the briefest of moments, but the man was perplexed because there seemed to be more thunder than lightning. He was convinced that every lightning flash was followed by several loud peals of thunder. The poor man just stood at the edge of the stream confused as how to proceed. He finally prayed: “O Lord, if it is just the same to you, give me more light and less noise”.
The delegation clearly got the point that the president needed more solutions and less complaining about problems – more light and less noise.
In the confusing times that confront business currently, executive leadership needs light to chart a way forward. When it comes to those in management positions or those who are employees, responses seem to follow this pattern:
- Some are more like light and others are more like noise
- Some arrive at possible solutions, others just make a noise about the way things are
- Some help us to see the situation more clearly, while others sound off about who is to blame
- Some demonstrate a better way. Others cling on to the way it has always been done
- Some offer to help, but others just moan about the problems
Goodier further notes: “The sun rises every morning and sheds light, vanquishing the night’s darkness. The rooster also rises every morning and makes noise, neither shedding light nor dispelling the darkness”.
During trying times, businesses don’t only need innovative solutions to get back on track, but they also need employees who are willing to change from old ways of accomplishing tasks and who are now eager to make fresh contributions towards a profitable company future. Such an attitude and mind-set shift needs to be nurtured by all in leadership. We all need to contribute to the light.