Monday, August 29, 2011

"The Penalty of Leadership"

After recently watching The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, I am hesitant to post any advertisement on this blog. I will, because the message is a powerful reminder to me of my goals as I move forward in this program. It is interesting to think which leader's actions can cause an organizational uproar. If we don't question status quo we will likely never pay the penalty of leadership. This semester the focus is on communication. My current organization does a good job of silencing leaders. However, until I can move on I take comfort, like Elvis Presley did, through the following car advertisement:

"The Penalty of Leadership

In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone - if he achieve a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you, unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountebank, long after the big world had acclaimed him its greatest genius. Multitudes flocked to worship at the shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could not build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river to see his boat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is the leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy - but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as the human passions - envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains - the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live - lives."

Theodore F. MacManus.

Although many of today's leaders seem to be memorializing Steve Jobs, I hope he chooses to embrace life despite the challenges ahead.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Fun

I am amazed and amused how much leadership has infiltrated my life. Even during breaks my entertainment seems to evoke a leadership theme. Perhaps because the curriculum focuses on leadership style and thought from experienced leaders my entertainment interests seem to be about nondescript people thrown into situations where they either naturally develop into leaders or fade into the background.

I am not a huge fan of TV but recently I've been watching the reality show Top Shot. I confess, I find group dynamics fascinating. So having 16 contestants live together, be divided up into teams, and each individual ultimately hope to win the title proves mesmerizing. Oddly enough, very little of the marksmanship holds my interest. However I think it takes tremendous discipline and skill to stay cool under fire when tough challenges are put before you and to succeed--that impresses the heck out of me. 

Secondly, my sister-in-law recommended the young adult series starting with The Hunger Games.

It's a fascinating fictional look at the future, in impoverished post war living conditions of the majority so an elite group can live lavishly, yet wastefully on the labor of these survivors. And yearly, the elite call for 1 boy and 1 girl from each district to come forward to the Hunger Games where they battle to the death on television (for mandatory viewing).

Sound awful? It is surprising this is a book for young adults. However I think there is a powerful message in this series about humanity, leadership, and escaping a dictatorship.  

Top Shot and The Hunger Games are predominantly about competition and the end result. Yet somehow the human element creeps in and shows us a side about the courage of individual leaders who sacrifice part of themselves to make life a little more bearable for others.  Is that ultimately what leaders do?

I often think about the balance between leaders and people. At what point does the organizational leader press an ideology on the group rather than liberate the people to live with individual free choice? For instance, does everything have to be about winning and competition? Is there any room out there for peaceful coexistence? And here I thought this entertainment stuff was just for fun!