“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
The opening lines of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, hints at the central tension throughout the classic novel—the growing struggle between a thriving and oppressed society. The tension between two worlds of existence builds throughout the story and leads to the dawn of the French Revolution.
A familiar narrative is playing out in today’s workplace and society—the growing tension between good leadership and bad leadership. Organizations around the world are either thriving or struggling under the effective, or ineffective, leadership at all levels of an organization.
While delivering a recent virtual presentation to individual contributors and managers from diverse locations that spanned from the United States to the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Iran, I asked participants to consider two scenarios during their careers. “Consider a time when it was the best of times at work. Then consider a season where you’ve experienced the worst of times at work.”
During the Best of Times at work participants described an environment where they felt energized by going to work. They were alive and thriving. Individuals were empowered to bring their best ideas to the table of collaboration in an open and trustworthy environment. Conflicts were resolved with fairness and efficiency. They felt as if their personal goals and responsibilities where aligned with that of the organization.
During the Worst of Times, the list grew longer and darker. Participants described a workplace that was stressful and frightening. People were not open to collaborating or sharing new ideas out of fear for being reprimanded or dismissed, or even the threat of loosing their jobs. Conflicts went unresolved, and in some instances, escalated to threats and bullying by other employees, managers, and executives.
No matter what the circumstances were, or the country or culture they experienced in, the environment was unanimously driven by the presence, or lack there of, good leadership.
Effective leadership is the most critical asset in the health and happiness of an organization, family, community, nation, or organization. Though organizations may be thriving finically, or having an amazing mission, the most important factor in sustained and meaningful success is founded on the way the leaders act and behave, in public and through interpersonal relationships at every level of the organization they are leading.
How would you describe your work environment today? Is it the Best of Times for you at work? Is it the Worst of Times? Are you leading and being led in the most effective manner that leads to personal and organizational health and happiness? The best of times at work are created when people at every level of the organization are committed to learning, growing, and living effective leadership behaviors.
Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is also passionate about developing leadership in youth through The Blanchard Institute, a youth leadership development program that teaches core leadership concepts to young people all around the world.