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Leadership is not about Heroics

At least, it’s not about heroics of the obvious kind, me on a pedestal, me at the centre of the portrait, me holding the prizes aloft. It is about finding “my” fulfilment in seeing others fly – the greatest compliment I ever heard was “thank you – you were the wind beneath my wings.”. It’s about support, momentum – and, dare I say it, it is about love..

I saw it some time ago in Los Angeles. A little 13 year old girl called Effie had won the honour of singing the national anthem before a Lakers NBA game. But a few lines into her performance, in front of a crowd of thousands, she froze and forgot the words. In a heartbeat, the Lakers coach, who was sitting just below, was off his seat. Throwing an arm around her, he urged her on and waved the fans to join in. It was a real tear–jerker. He’d shown four leadership skills:

  • taking decisive actions fearlessly
  • giving total support just when it was needed
  • displaying considerable courage, and
  • knowing precisely when to give help.

He didn’t take over from her. He helped her achieve her moment – what could have been a disaster became an extraordinarily uplifting experience for her, for everyone. I’d like him as my coach. And just to round off this view of leaders as helpers, I read recently a startling summary of Abraham Lincoln: “There is a singular quality about Abraham Lincoln, which sets him apart from all our other Presidents…. a dimension of brooding compassion, of love and humanity; a love which was, if anything, strengthened and deepened by the agony that drove lesser men to the protective shelter of callous indifference.”

See you next week.

Yours ever,