Why lead a turn around? Battles, cultures, businesses, sports, and relationships all have the tendency to go bad as long as humans are involved. Study the 5 Laws of Decline for a description of the downward spiral that occurs when people begin to lose sight of foundational principles. To turnaround a decline, qualities like opportunity, competition, and reward for performance are necessary. When we ignore those principles we head toward a crisis. This is where leaders step in. They change the current and turnaround the decline.
All of us experience crisis in our lives at one time or another. Crisis can be financial. Crisis can be marital. But perhaps the biggest crisis is when a culture begins to lose its freedom because it effects all of us. Through all of history there have been crisis’s that have occurred as the human race fought to preserve principles that prevent a decline and preserve freedom. One thing for certain is that whenever a crisis gets turned around you will find a courageous leader in its midst. Why? A leader demonstrates the quality of courage that comes from recognizing something wrong that needs to be fixed. Leaders stand for principle against prevailing currents that have created the crisis. A leader’s courage, passion, purpose, and determination in the face of adversity becomes the inspiration that leads a turnaround. People become emboldened when a leader stands. People begin to realize down deep that they too have a purpose for their actions. Leaders communicate to people the fact that there is a grave situation that has suddenly come upon them. For example, when we break the principles of freedom people begin to lose the level of living conditions that they have been accustomed to. There is a ripple effect that also threatens future generation’s way of life. Leaders rise up in crisis mode to preserve the current and future freedom. When leadership is present people are compelled to leave their comfort zones. They become passionate about how they will restore the principles they are losing or resist the oppressive forces that are taking hold. Realize that once hard fought freedoms are lost, it will take an enormous amount of trials, effort, tenacity, in some circumstances even century’s to restore. If leadership is absent, the generations that follow will succumb to long periods of oppressive suffering and turmoil. Some generations never see freedom because leadership was absent. They will only know the suffering from oppression because someone failed to lead.
Leaders don’t pick their times. They are born into them. The most noticeable evidence of leadership turnarounds throughout history is when freedom was being threatened. Throughout all of history leaders came to the surface when oppressive forces were prepared to end their freedom. When a crisis strikes, leaders realize that without taking a stand, the life style they have grown accustomed to will be snuffed out like a candle. In most cases, history reveals that a leader had only a brief moment in time to act to preserve freedom.
Most leaders that have made an impact with turnarounds in civilization never thought they were qualified. However they realized that they were born for that time and knew they needed to do something. They took responsibility to prevent loss of freedom.
Leaders throughout history led turnarounds by their courage and brought us to our present freedoms. We can study examples like Urukagina of Lagash. The first evidence of the recorded word ‘freedom’ was found on a cuneiform tablet in Sumer. Samuel Noah Kramer was Clark Research Professor Emeritus of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania and Curator of Emeritus of the Tablet Collections at the University of Pennsylvania. He describes the scenario that led to a turnaround. “Urukagina who lived in 2400 B.C. proudly recorded that he restored justice and freedom to the long – suffering citizens, did away with the oppressive officials that had permeated the culture and put a stop to injustice and exploitation. Records stated, “Urukagina protected the widow and the orphan.” Most of the inhabitants of Lagash were farmers and cattle breeders, boatmen and fishermen, merchants and craftsmen.” Removing the parasitic officials was a major restoration of their freedom. The last word left to contemporary historians, “From one end of the land to the other…there were no tax collectors.” In addition, Urukagina also reversed the cultural decline with wide spread use of the written word. By doing so, he empowered a thinking class of citizens, the first evidence of a literary movement that propelled the people’s freedom.
Another leader who led a turnaround was David 1040 – 970 B.C. a mere shepherd boy. The Bible says, “He was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.” Matthew Henry writes, “David learnt to obey before he commanded. As a little shepherd, he had more courage than all the mighty men of Israel. He was very careful and tender with his flock and laid down his life for his sheep. He acknowledged that it was the Lord who delivered him from the lion and the bear.” He led a turn around that united all the tribes of Israel but faced life threatening challenges on the way to creating a free state. The Bible recounts, “Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle… And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath… Who said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel!” All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid… And David said, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine?” David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Everyone knows how that story ends. David left records detailing the decline, crisis, and the turnaround found in the Psalms.
Another great turnaround was led in Greece around 480 B.C. Paul Cartledge writes about the qualities of a Spartan. “They possessed enduring duty, discipline, the nobility of arms in a cause worth dying for, the sacrifice of the individual for the greater good of the community, and the triumph of the will over seemingly insuperable obstacles.” 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas stood at the ‘Hot Gates’ of Thermopylae, a pass protecting central mainland Greece. The opposing force the Persians had under King Xerxes was estimated at around 80,000 with roughly 600 ships. It was said of Xerxes, that he asked former Spartan King Demaratus, “Tell me of your brother Spartans?” The dethroned Spartan king spoke, “Spartans do not fight for a king or empire, my lord. They do not fight for riches or captured booty. They do not fight for greed or lust or power. They fight for something very different. They fight for each other, for their families, for the idea that men should live free.” The hoplite formation held on for three days defying the odds. They left the epitaph marking the site, “Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.” They stood for what mattered. Historian Edward Creasy lists the battle of Marathon shortly after this as one of his ‘Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World’. It’s interesting that all the turnarounds had a literary movement in common. The great literature that came from this period in Greece led to a sense of purpose and courage and led to some of the greatest advancements in civilization.
There are a multitude of important events throughout history we can use as examples when people with courage stood up, led a turnaround against oppression, and with a sense of purpose, protected freedom. Who gave their life for your comfort and freedom? The next time you sit next to a child look into their eyes. Ask yourself if it’s time to lead and make a difference for them like others did for you? We live in a time where it seems like it’s every man and woman for themselves. I can assure you that with that attitude the next generation’s freedom will be in jeopardy. An incredibly small percentage of human beings have had the blessings of living free like we do today, although today we are loosing our freedoms rapidly as we forget our roots. We need to be reminded how fragile and rare free societies are. The decline of responsibility, statism, and moral decay all preceded the fall of free societies in the past. Only when leaders stood with courage did they turn around and preserve a free society. As Orrin Woodward and Oliver DeMille write in the book Leadershift, “It’s a Call For Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead.” Are you ready for a turnaround? God Bless, George Guzzardo