What are we waiting for?

Our world, both at work and elsewhere, demands that we step up and take the lead. The Hopi prophecy famously said that “we are the ones we have been waiting for”. And we have been waiting. We have, like the maids in the biblical parable, been keeping our lamps filled, ready. For what? For whom?

It does not matter who you are and where you are. A little more than a year ago, a fifteen-year-old girl sat outside in the rain in front of the school she was supposed to be attending; but she was no longer waiting – she was taking the lead. That girl’s name is Greta Thunberg.

The lead is there to be taken by those who dare to take it, by those who care enough to not walk by when it is theirs to take.

Are we waiting for the right moment? There is great value in that – we do not have to grasp at the lead. To take the lead does not confer status so much as it demands responsibility. To lead is not about a scarce position somewhere in a hierarchy – rather, it is an insistent question posed by a particular moment.

Are we waiting for the right cause, something worth the sacrifice? To lead will undoubtedly require all those hard things: giving up what is comfortable, persevering in the face of difficulty, standing your ground in the face of indifference, opposition, and even ridicule. The lead is not something to take merely because it gives you certain advantages – it has to matter, it needs to be urgent, it must require your full commitment.

Are we waiting for someone else? It requires true humility to take the lead, but strangely enough, that humility grows only when we stop saying, “Why me?” and acknowledge that our qualities are the ones needed here and that destiny does not care if we make fools of ourselves from time to time.
How will we know?

Being ready to lead requires our utmost attention. We cannot afford to sleepwalk through life. The stakes are too high: for ourselves, our families, our organisations, our communities, our nations, for our world.
Being ready to lead requires attention to our world. Did we become complacent about life in the organisations where we spend so much of our time? Do we say, “that’s just how things are”, and try to get through another day? Or do we imagine, and declare, a different possibility?

Being ready to lead requires profound attention to our relationships. Do we settle for the superficial, and at worst, for the shallow political, saying to each other and to ourselves, “Well, we have to play the game, else …”? Or do we yearn for intimacy and vulnerability, even in the workplace, for being able to reveal ourselves in our full humanity, and thereby also receive the gift of another’s vulnerability?

Above all, being ready to lead requires that we pay deep, careful and courageous attention to ourselves. Do we keep avoiding all the discomfort, the anger, the shame, the fear, the pain that comes from acquainting ourselves with ourselves, and thereby settle for empty pleasures rather than deep joy, dull escapism rather than deep connection, a brittle, defensive personality rather, always not quite satisfied rather than someone in touch with their own infinite potential? Or do we face the fear, plunge into our hidden selves, and refuse to say “That’s just who I am” but believe that an I much more loving, much more trusting, much more powerful is waiting to emerge?
We are the ones, after all.