Fast Company

Great Leaders Provide Hope

A couple weeks ago in Bangladesh, while staring out at the frenetic street pace from my car window, I saw a crowd slowly strolling behind a white-haired dreadlocked man. He may be, it turns out, the Forrest Gump of South Asia.

You see, this old dreadlocked man marches every day. He never speaks so has never explained his purpose. So people have simply made up the purpose themselves. They say he is a saint. They believe following him will bring good luck. So every morning, once spotted, this man collects a crowd of marchers who flock around him as he circles city blocks all day.

He could really be marching for any number of reasons. He could be simply crazy or perhaps is searching for a coin he dropped many years ago. The facts do not point us to a clear answer so the human desire for purpose steps in. He must have purpose, it tells us; he must know something we do not know.

Within the story of this white-haired, dreadlocked man lies a lesson on leadership: leaders create meaning not only by passionately evoking a vision--indeed they need not say anything at all--but by filling a gap their people need to have filled. They provide hope where people cannot find it.

Rather than trying to convince your people to follow you, why not pay attention to who in the crowd is already doing so. Maybe you should stop pushing, stop trying to lead, and instead just start walking. See who follows you.

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