Gandhi famously told his followers to be the change they wish to see in the world. Those words, so simple yet so powerful, have gone on to leave a legacy around the world.
And, while they might seem like a lofty aspiration, the truth is that it really is possible to change the world, no matter who you are. Here are six simple ways to live up to Gandhi’s maxim.
- Be More Authentic.
Everyone is a leader in one way or another, whether the group that sees you as a leader is your family, community, or your company.
No matter what type of leader you are, however, one of the best ways to lead is through authenticity. Authenticity means being true to who you are, leveraging your strengths, and not putting on facades or masks to try to hide that.
It isn’t just a feel-good slogan, either. A study in Leadership & Organizational Development Journal found that employees’ perception of authentic leadership has a strongly positive impact on their job satisfaction.
Why is authenticity so powerful? A Harvard Business School blog post explained why, citing Professor Nancy Koehn’s work. She surmises that authentic leaders are disciplined, mission-driven, and committed to bettering themselves, and they also cultivate self-awareness and inspire faith.
- Be More Inclusive
Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of most leaders’ minds, and it’s no wonder why. By being more inclusive, businesses and individuals open themselves up to more perspectives and ideas. Diversity and inclusion are essential for creativity.
A homogenous group of people who share many markers of identity are more likely to have similar life experiences—and that can affect the creativity of the ideas the group produces. By including people of different generations, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes, and so on, a group opens up space to a broader range of perspectives and experiences. When these perspectives bounce off each other, creativity happens.
Diversity and inclusion are also important for leaders simply because it is the right thing to do. For too long in our society, women, people of color, and so many other groups of people have been underrepresented in institutions and excluded from positions of power. Leaders who make a concentrated effort to promote diversity and inclusion in their organizations are taking a small, but vital step to right this historical wrong.
- Start Small
One of the biggest misconceptions about being the change you wish to see in the world is that big change is required. However, by starting small, it’s possible to make a large impact.
There is power in numbers. For example, imagine if every business in the world donated just $1 toward stopping world hunger. With all those businesses contributing such a tiny amount, a lot could be done!
Plus, sometimes it is simply impossible to make a huge change all at once, especially in an organization—change is difficult and sometimes painful. But when leaders start with something small, they’re able to make an impact quickly and get buy-in from colleagues and employees. This creates a sense of accomplishment and confidence; this one small thing was achieved rather painlessly, why not build on it? Over time, momentum grows. Several small changes can add up to something major.
- Choose an Issue and Highlight It
Some issues seem to be constantly receiving media attention—maybe because they are easier to see, or they affect people with more ability to publicize them. However, other problems are swept under the carpet and forgotten.
The reason why this happens is because not enough people are talking about those issues and educating others. That lack of education and awareness leads to a lack of action.
One great way to create change is to choose an issue and highlight it. In your personal life, this can mean talking about it to friends and family or joining a social movement.
At work, leaders can use this concept by focusing on one problem in the organization and tackling it with transparency. Does your organization have a problem with employee retention? Do you want to improve diversity and inclusion? You cannot literally push everything else to the side, but you can pick one issue and give it your special focus. By being transparent about this, you can also direct others’ attention to it, get input, and let employees know you care about it.
- Choose Business Partners Wisely
Not every business is socially responsible, and that means that not every business is creating positive change. Plenty of companies are actively harmful.
One easy way of creating change as a leader to choose business partners wisely. Before choosing to sign a business deal or work with a particular company, consider more than just your bottom line and the other company’s reputation on paper. Make sure you understand their values and how they live them. If you’re looking for a new supplier or vender, for example, you might consider whether they have an ethical supply chain, what commitments to sustainability they have made, and so on.
The more organizations take a stand and refuse to work with unethical companies, the more it encourages other organizations to do so.