By: Bob Vanourek
The third principle of The Eight Principles™ is Leadership Leads™. Well enough, but just what does that mean?
Because of my life-long fascination with leadership, as well as my love for the wisdom in literature and poetry, I spent the last year combing through hundreds of literary passages that had a leadership message. The result was my new book Leadership Wisdom: Lessons from Poetry, Prose, and Curious Verse. Here’s a small sample of the wisdom I found.
Leading Yourself Well First
President Theodore Roosevelt (1858 –1919) delivered some memorable lines in a speech in 1910.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Leaders aren’t afraid to try, even if they may fail. Leaders leap into the arena.
This theme is continued by an unknown author who wrote the poem, “To Risk.”
… But risks must be taken,
Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
Those who risk nothing, do nothing, and have nothing …
Only one who risks is truly free…
Leaders take risks to get people to a better place.
Edgar Guest (1881–1959) was an English-born American poet. His poem “Don’t Quit” ends with,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.
Good leaders persevere. Leadership is a long run together, not a solo sprint.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) spoke the words, “… everybody can be great because everybody can serve…” in a sermon titled “The Drum Major Instinct.” Dr. King’s sermon quoted Jesus’ words from the Bible in Mark 10: 45: “[He] did not come to be served, but to serve.” King cited the deep desire in many of us to be the drum major, leading the parade, being first, strutting proud, high-stepping in front of the glorious marching band with cheering crowds overflowing the streets we cavalcade. This desire is the seduction of our egos.
Author Max DePree said,
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.
The last is to say thank you. In between the leader is servant.
Leading well means getting your ego under control and serving others.
American journalist Sydney J. Harris (1917–1986) once wrote,
Thomas Aquinas, who knew more about education and persuasion
than almost anybody who ever lived, once said that
when you want to convert someone to your view,
you go over to where he is standing,
take him by the hand (mentally speaking),
and guide him to where you want to go.
You don’t stand across the room and shout at him.
You don’t call him a dummy.
You don’t order him to come over to where you are.
You start where he is and work from that position.
That’s the only way to get him to budge.
To get people to follow you, start where they are and treat them respectfully—a lesson many of our government leaders would benefit from.
Leaving a Lasting Legacy
If everything falls apart after a leader has departed, then the leadership has failed. Leaders leave a healthy legacy in their organizations.
Dr. Kent M. Keith (1948–) has had a distinguished career as a leader in higher education. He wrote this poem in 1968 when he was in college.
… What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Leadership will incur critics anxious to tear you down. Leading well means building with the best you can give, just doing good anyway.
Nobel Laureate George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) was an Irish playwright. He wrote “This Is the True Joy in Life” in 1903.
… Life is no brief candle to me.
It is sort of a splendid torch, which I’ve got a hold of for the moment,
And I want to make it burn as brightly as possible
Before handing it on to future generations.
Leading well means burning your torch brightly and leading for a mighty purpose.
To lead is to make a noble choice. I wish you well as you choose to lead.
Bob Vanourek is the author of Leadership Wisdom: Lessons from Poetry, Prose, and Curious Verse, a collection of 70+ poems and prose passages with commentary and practical applications. He is the former CEO of five companies and a frequent speaker on ethical leadership. He is the co-author with his son, Gregg Vanourek, of the award-winning book Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations. Website: http://www.bobvanourek.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leadershipwisdom123/ Twitter: @BobVanourek