Lead or Walk on By




‘Walk on By’ was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and beautifully sung by Dionne Warwick.  https://youtu.be/ijhL9Y7skQs   The song was recorded in the early 60’s yes 1960’s.   The lyrics are very profound – especially in today’s climate:

“If you see me walking down the street

And I start to cry each time we met

Walk on by, walk on by

 Make believe

That you don’t see the tears \ Just let me grieve

And walk on by…..”   

 The song itself is about a breakup and the singer encourages the person who broke her heart to walk on by – don’t notice her, pretend her tears don’t exist – don’t really ‘see’ her.

The climate today requires a need to pay attention; the need to see and be aware and showing humanity.  This is the new movement in business, politics and in our own personal lives.  Showing humanity is simply stating:  enough of the walk on by scenario.   There is an emerging focus on paying attention, speaking up, speaking out.  And yes, to use a Malcolm Gladwell terminology we are reaching a tipping point into doing just that in business, politics and in our personal lives.  In other words our way of being is now demanding humanity, courage, integrity – qualities embodied in character based leadership.

Earlier this year, a reference was made to this song when describing Leader Character.   Ted MacDonald an Advisor with the Financial Conduct Authority in London UK reminded us of the famous lyric in a discussion on Character.  The question was, do we walk on by when we see, hear, lay witness to an injustice, bad behavior, conflict, passivity in work?  Do we walkon by rather than stand up and lead; be a leader, bring courage, integrity, drive, humanity to the table – Character based leadership?

The simple question Ted posed has been on my mind for months.  I recently met Ted again while on a trip to the UK and it was comical really that his name, face, voice is firmly etched in my mind for having uttered that deeply profound statement.  It is worth examining and worthy of repeating.

I have caught myself numerous times and questioned – do I walk on by – do I ‘see’, am I paying attention?   When in that quandary, my  questions are:  do I need to engage in this, is this my battle to fight, can I help, should I help, if I choose to fight is this the hill to die on, do I have the courage it takes to be all in, will patience suddenly appear [patience is not my strong suite]?  All those questions and more come to mind.

What I reflect and rely on is the need to not follow the crowd or what everyone else is doing and focus in on and understand, act upon/embrace  MY values.   What I believe in.  And yes I set aside my parent’s voice saying – Loretta – what will people think if you do that.  It is the hardest transition that I have ever found myself going through.

Perhaps its age – I’m past my second anniversary of my 29th birthday, however, what I think about what I do and what I say matters more to me that what others think.   It’s my face in the mirror I have to face each morning and evening and I need it to smile back at me and say well done.

Talk about being outside a comfort zone.   Leadership based on values has met with difficulties.  Choosing to walk away, step in and engage, admitting to my faults and mistakes, being more patient, has at times pushed me way outside of my comfort zone, however I am a work in progress, so see my humility as a form of growth.

This has been a year of choices.   I’ve walked away from a lucrative contract.  I loved the work, however the CEO I was working with ruled by fear and I watched too many people being morally deflated.  I couldn’t drive change, couldn’t keep ignoring what was going on around me and I couldn’t keep walking on by, so I understood my limitations, faced my accountability in condoning the actions by pretending they didn’t exist and did the best I could – I resigned.

I have embarked on new business ventures, have taken huge risks and made changes to my company and the work we do and yet I have never been so excited about waking up each and every morning to face the next steps of the transformation.   I’ve made a lot of decisions, enacted upon them and driven forward.

The decisions however were relatively easy to make.   Roy Disney stated: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”  And he was right.   Each and every decision I have made was based on my values and that’s why they were easy.   I no longer have that angst in the pit of my stomach.     It either fits to values or it doesn’t and no, I can’t make it be what I want it to be.   I tend to want something to be what and how I want it to be and arrogantly believe I can make it so.  Well, as they say……It is what it is and it isn’t what it isn’t and the rest is the story you build around it.   So it fits to values or it doesn’t and I try to stop making up a story so that I can make it be how or what it isn’t.

So what does this have to do with walking on by….simple:

  • The song is really catchy and will stick in your mind so it makes it simple to remember to ask the question: do I walk on by?
  • Identify your values – bring character based leadership to the forefront in your own life.
  • Bring courage to work with you every day – see the people you lead, be their courageous leader – one they will want to emulate. Don’t pass up the opportunity to be someone’s shining example.   Don’t walk on by them and isolate yourself in your own world.

The ‘me too’ movement has shown the world the impact of walking on by.   Millions of voices both men and women are now joined and broadcast the message – don’t walk on by – stand up, pay attention, show courage.   We all deserve a better world – be the change that is needed.


Are you showing humanity or are you walking on by?   I’d love to hear your insights.

 Genesis develop leaders.   Our coaching, training and development programs commence with understanding and embracing Leader Character.  Accelerate results, heighten your leadership performance, drive accountability…..Lead.   We provide you and your team the tools and methodology to be a courageous leader.  To learn more contact me today.     



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