"Time is the cruelest teacher; first she gives the test then teaches the lesson."
I think it is amazing that there has been an explosion of interest over the past few years in the subject of leadership, and yet at the same time, there appears to be a void of leadership in every aspect of our lives.
One only has to look at the corporate embezzlement, meaningless political rhetoric, celebrity name-calling, academic humiliation, religious dishonor, or everyday scams to realize there are serious leadership voids - and apparently a desire to know more about this complex subject.
There are programs with highly charged titles about developing leadership. There are leadership focus groups, leadership seminars, leadership conferences, leadership boot camps; the list goes on. If you Google the word leadership, you would have 182,000,000 opportunities to view some aspect of this obviously popular subject.
Books abound on leadership, each trying to provide that "silver bullet" to transform you into a leader by the numbers: 9 Things, 7 Ways, 5 Thoughts, 4 Principles, 3 Words, 2 Actions, 1 Idea, etc. I am fascinated at the sheer number of books, Web sites, seminars and programs on this subject. Recently, I read a column by a friend of "mind," Rob Sherman, which I would like to share with you. It is reprinted with his permission as follows.
Leadership Lessons From the Movie "The Queen"
By Rob Sherman
We all love movies. And every once in a while you will see a movie that makes us think beyond the time we spend in the theater. One such thought-provoking movie is "The Queen."
"The Queen" is the story of England's Queen Elizabeth II as she and her family dealt with the death of the former Princess Diana on August 31, 1997, and for the next several days thereafter. It also depicts how we all tend to cling to the past and resist change when new circumstances seem to dictate a different direction is warranted.
As you know, the royal family was never thrilled with Diana as she beguiled the nation with her refusal to conform to the rigors of the monarch. The Queen's response to her death was to adhere to tradition and say and do nothing. Preserving the status quo became an obsession to the royal family as the country - including the new Prime Minister Tony Blair - watched in disbelief as the Queen ignored the pleas of her countrymen to lead the nation in mourning.
It is easy to condemn the inactions of the monarch. As Tony Blair states in the movie, "How do we save her from herself?" But the Queen's actions are a microcosm of the reaction of many of us when faced with events that would seem to demand a change in the status quo.
You don't have to look far to see a glaring example in the President's continued pre-election refrain of "staying the course" in Iraq. Regardless of your political persuasion, few would argue that "staying the current course" is a recipe for more of the same.
Closer to home, you may think that you are NOT a prisoner to the status quo; that you are always open to opinions. But to some degree we all are prisoners. Ask yourself honestly if sometimes your "hot button" is pushed and you get defensive when someone suggests a new idea that threatens the old ideas that have served you well in the past.
Why does this happen? Of course, FEAR and EGO are the favorite culprits that want to preserve and control what already exists. Your ego fights to control and preserve the past. After all, if changes are necessary, perhaps your past decisions were a mistake. The ego refuses to admit mistakes. So how do you overcome the grip of the ego on your actions?
Eckhart Toole, in his book A New Earth, suggests that your AWARENESS of the role of ego is the key to tearing it down. He states, "Recognizing the ego for what it is: a collective dysfunction, the insanity of the human mind. When you recognize it for what it is, you no longer misperceive it as somebody's identity. Once you see the ego for what it is, it becomes much easier to remain non-reactive toward it. You don't take it personally anymore." Heady stuff.
Author Jim Collins, in his business classic, Good to Great, reaffirms the importance of AWARENESS as a key to making effective leadership choices. "Greatness is not a function of circumstance, he concludes. It is clearly a matter of conscious choice." Accordingly, great leaders make conscious choices only when they are AWARE that their need to preserve the status quo is getting in the way of properly evaluating all options.
Fear also works to preserve the status quo. When you know someone in your office is not doing their job, fear of "how am I going to get along without them" or "how am I going to replace them," fills your mind. Instead of removing the individual immediately, they are often permitted to stay. Fear won the initial battle.
Fear and ego are even more difficult to overcome when your immediate circle of influence continually assures you that your decision to "stay the course" is the right one. It often takes a significant event to move you off center. For the Queen it was the pummeling she took from the press to get her to reject the opinions of her husband and mother that her decision to do nothing in response to Diana's death served her country. For President Bush, it was the loss of the House and Senate in the latest elections. For the scenario at the office, a realization finally prevails that you do not need that employee. But that awareness took time.
What prompts you to make the necessary changes?
Your job as a leader in 2007 is to become aware. Every day you make leadership decisions that are clouded by fear and ego, which work to preserve the status quo. While preserving the status quo may be the "right" decision even today, you cannot properly evaluate your choices if fear and ego serve as a veil on decision-making. Queen Elizabeth exhibited real courage in recognizing those traits in herself and finally rejected the advice of her inner circle as she led her country in mourning for Diana.
Finding courage is a daily challenge. It isn't just reserved for queens and presidents. You exhibit courage every day when you fill your life with awareness; place past decisions in their proper context; and make decisions without the burden of ego and fear. That is the test of true leadership.
Written by Rob Sherman, JD, speaker, trainer, author of Sherman's 21 Laws of Speaking: How to Inspire Others to Action. To contact Rob, write or e-mail: One Easton Oval, Suite 550, Columbus, Ohio, 43219, (614) 472-3200;
So, what is leadership all about? Is it courage that differentiates leaders from others? Is it taking charge of people? Is it a set of skills that needs to be developed? Is it the need for a high level of intelligence or integrity? In reality, leadership is not a role, just as it is not about taking charge or learning a skill.
Leadership is about having a vision and not being satisfied with the status quo. Leadership is about providing the courage to speak up when required. Leadership can only be fostered, not developed. So, the myth about leadership development is one that needs serious review by those aspiring to be leaders. You cannot go to leadership school and graduate as a leader. Traits that a leader must exhibit are neither traits that are learned nor a skill that is developed. Leadership is not a learnable skill, but it does not matter because everyone can show leadership. Every time you are called upon to demonstrate courage and you do, you have demonstrated leadership. Leadership is about the courage of your convictions, not a learned skill set. Only influencing skills can be taught and developed, not the actual drive to lead.
In chiropractic, we often mistake high-profiled individuals or those with charisma, positions or titles, as leaders. Often we are lured by the outward appearance of economics and success as the criterion to judge leadership. Leadership is not about money, power or position, but rather about having a vision, along with the passion and dedication to attract those who wish to share that vision.
Leaders, or those seeking to be leaders, attempt to differentiate themselves from their peers in a variety of ways. It is interesting that some of these individuals are seen as deviants and are rejected, while others emerge as leaders and are followed. What is the distinguishing reason this phenomenon occurs? Think of some of the leaders in chiropractic from any era of our history; it becomes clear that we imitate those we admire more than we generally acknowledge.
The choice to follow a leader or to determine those values we want to see demonstrated by our leaders is often confusing, frustrating and difficult. Old-fashioned values seem to have withstood the test of time and those who wish to be regarded as leaders should be put through the test for traits such as integrity, ethics, trustworthiness, honesty, respect and character, which could be considered essential ingredients for consideration.
In viewing which direction to seek, which plan or program to follow or which leader to trust, we should develop a fine-tuned internal "leadership detector" device and run these individuals through it to see if they stand up to the test. Do these individuals champion change for the right reasons? Do they challenge the status quo because they want advancement for the global profession, or is there a hidden agenda in their scheme? Are they truly the kind of leader that one can follow with confidence?
In this day of a renewed interest in leadership, perhaps it is time to do a self-assessment of our individual needs and realize that personal courage is the only way to bring out the leader in each of us. This courage and knowledge that we are individually responsible for our own destiny may help end today's leadership crisis.
I end with the quote that Dr. Janse (a true chiropractic leader) used to end many of his lectures: "Each snowflake must share in the responsibility for the avalanche." If we individually recognize that we must play a part in determining our destiny, the chiropractic profession will be transformed.
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