Anything Can Be Leading

“The truth is sir, you never really play at 100%—no matter what,” says Francous, the Rugby captain, in Invictus the film.

“Ah, in sports as in life.” … responds Nelson Mandela, the President of South Africa. … “What is your philosphy on leadership? How do you inspire your team to do their best?”

“By example,” says Francous. …

“That is exactly right,” says Mandela. “But how to get them to be better than they think they can be? That is very difficult I find. … Inspiration, perhaps. How do we inspire ourselves to greatness, when nothing else will do? How do we inspire everyone else around us? I sometimes think it is by using the work of others. On Robin Island [where I was imprisoned], when things got very bad, I found inspiration in a poem. … Just words, but they helped me to stand when all I wanted to do was lie down. … [Later, at the Barcelona Olympics, a song everyone sang] inspired me to come home and do better. … We need inspiration. Because in order to build our nation, we must all exceed our own expectations.”

Greatness is a concept that we often discuss, but something very few achieve. That fact is troubling. If most of us aren’t achieving greatness, or in the process of achieving greatness, then we must be doing something wrong.

Maybe if we led a little more by example, things would change. Perhaps accepting that none of us are really playing at 100% would make a difference. At one point, I wrote about my (then) new friend, vulnerability. Being willing to be vulnerable with my colleagues and friends has helped us all achieve greater things. I realized then, and now, that none of us ever play at 100%, and that our best moments are when we admit that we can improve, and then do so. We are better for doing so.

How do we, though, inspire those around us (and ourselves) to be greater than we think we can be? How do we build a greater capacity for greatness? I think it’s making anything, and everything, an opportunity to lead by example. It’s being willing to admit that we can go farther, and do more.

In order to achieve greatness, we must learn everything we can from every experience—whether that be a conversation or a poem. Then, and only then—in the teachable moment, which is really a moment of vulnerability—will we find our weaknesses and improve. Then and only then, will we see where greatness can come from. We will see where we are, and where we should go.

What poem, book, speech or conversation have you learned from recently?

Note: The link to Invictus is an affiliate link. My other source for this post was the Bellingham Business Academy lecture by Janice P. Anderson.

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