I haven’t been doing much writing, outside of writing for class. Here’s a journal entry I wrote for one of my classes. I don’t know what grade I’ll get for it, but I thought I’d post it here.
Leaders inspire. They recognize a need in society, and they are able to convince the people to undertake a task to fulfill that need, whether or not the people also recognize that need, and whether or not the people believe they are capable of undertaking the task. Thomas Cronin wrote, “Leaders have those indispensable qualities of contagious self-confidence, unwarranted optimism, and incurable idealism that allow them to attract and mobilize others to undertake tasks these people never dreamed they could undertake. …to speak to people of what’s only dimly on their minds. The effective creative leader is one who can give voice and form so that people say, “Ah, yes – that’s what I too have been feeling.’”
An example of this would be Winston Churchill. Many people did not believe that fighting against Nazi Germany was a good idea. Many of those who did think it was important did not believe they were capable of winning. But Churchill saw that for the free world the war was both important to fight and theirs to win. He helped inspire and lead Britain and the Allies to victory in World War II in part through the three qualities Cronin listed – “contagious self-confidence, unwarranted optimism, and incurable idealism,” and in doing so he achieved a task many thought to be impossible, and etched himself a place among the greatest leaders of history.
Cronin also wrote that, “Most of the significant breakthroughs in our country have been made by people who saw all the complexities ahead of them, but believed in themselves and their purposes. They refused to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by doubts. They were willing to invent new rules and gamble on the future.” Leaders innovate. Steve Jobs was considered a leader in business and technology in part because of his ability to innovate. He continually pushed the boundaries of what was considered “the norm,” creating technology that nobody knew they wanted, yet the populous decided they needed. He would regularly come up against doubters, people who criticized his ideas, but he did not let that hold him back. He was a visionary, and foresaw the possibilities, and did not let the fear of failure paralyze him.
Cronin wrote that “An effective leader must have integrity…it is perhaps the most central of leadership qualities. A leader must be able to see people in all of their relationships, in the wholeness of their lives and not just as a means to getting a job done, as a means for enhanced productivity.” Many managers are good at getting a job done, but this is not necessarily effective leadership. As we discussed earlier in class, “A leader knows what’s best to do; a manager knows merely how best to do it” (Ken Adelman). Many American companies have outsourced their manufacturing plants to third-world countries, where they take advantage of cheap labor, having people work in poor (and sometimes dangerous) conditions, for meager pay. Are these companies “getting a job done?” Yes, and from a bottom-line perspective, one might say they are doing the job well. After all, they are getting high productivity for low investments, and reaping huge profits off of it. However, their decisions lack integrity, and their achievements are marred with controversy. An effective leader will pursue integrity if he/she wants to maintain a good reputation with God and man.
I found it interesting how Warren Bennis noted that all 90 leaders he studied were married to their first spouse and supported the institution of marriage. To honor the sanctity of marriage is a Godly virtue, as noted in the Bible. God blesses those who follow his ways. (“Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” Psalm 119:2) It’s no coincidence that leaders, when they let success go to their heads and pursue sinful desires, lose some of their position. Tiger Woods, who at one time was the world’s leading golfer, has fallen from grace since having an extra-marital affair. His golf game hasn’t been the same, and he is no longer considered the premier golfer in the world. Regarding integrity, Cronin went on to write, “Some may call this character, others would call it authenticity, compassion or empathy. Whatever we call it, character and integrity are much easier kept than recovered.” This is why I stress the importance of God. A leader needs to have a foundation grounded on firm principals of truth and integrity if he/she expects to be an effective leader. When one fears God, one has reverence for virtue and righteousness. When one loves God, one has compassion on the people he leads.
Cronin also wrote, “Leaders are people who know who they are and know where they are going.” Leaders need to know themselves if they want to be able to lead others. To follow someone who doesn’t know where they are going would be like the blind leading the blind. But with Christ at their center, a leader can’t go wrong, for the leader is not expected to lead oneself, but rather, has as his or her leader God Almighty. And “if God be for us, who can be against us?” Abraham Lincoln, who is considered to be one of the greatest leaders in United States history, followed this principal. He said, “It is no pleasure to me to triumph over any one; but I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the people’s resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity.”
As a leader, humility is an important virtue to sustained success. With success comes pride, which very easily leads to destruction. Many leaders, upon achieving success, go on a power trip, which leads to their downfall. To humble oneself before a higher power seems to be the only way to truly keep one’s ego in check, and this can be found through Christ. While other religious scholars also stress the importance of humility, Jesus is the only one to claim to be God, and to have the miraculous powers to prove it, with his triumph over death. The Buddha, Confuscious, and Lao Tzu also preached humility as a virtue, but they do not hold a higher being before themselves, thus there is no one to hold them accountable. The many gods and goddesses of Hinduism and other polytheistic beliefs are oftentimes just as lacking in virtue as mortal humans, thus they also cannot be used as a righteous and impartial judge. Muhammad claims to know God and the way to heaven, but lacks the miracles to prove himself worthy of being followed. Any leader who humbles himself before the Lord and follows him will surely succeed in his or her endeavors.
While I enjoyed the Cronin reading, I would like to make my own personal addendum: “Leaders have those indispensable qualities of contagious self-confidence [knowing that God is guiding them], unwarranted optimism [for the joy of the Lord is their strength], and incurable idealism [for truth is found in God] that allow them to attract and mobilize others to undertake tasks these people never dreamed they could undertake.” The result is good for the people, is good for society as a whole, brings honor to the leader, and brings glory and honor to God.
The following video is about a bunch of people who were all very different from one another. They each did different things, and lived mostly in different times. But they also have a lot in common. They were all rejected by many people, people who were supposedly more knowledgeable and successful than they were. They were told they were no good at what they were doing, and that they should try something else. But all of these people had a vision of what could be achieved if only they stuck with it. And when they refused to give up, people thought they were crazy, delusional, or just wasting their time.
All of these people went on to become legends. They rose to the tops of their respected fields, and changed the world around them. To this day we feel their influences, and I’m sure we will continue to for a long time to come.
“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
The Beatles were rejected by Decca recording…but they were also rejected by many other recording companies before they finally found one that would give them a chance. Walt Disney dealt with so many people who thought he could never achieve his dreams. He had this idea for a film project that people thought was crazy. His own wife thought it was doomed to fail. He invested all of his savings into it, and even mortgaged his house in order to pay for it. People around him called it “Disney’s Folly.” But he had a vision of what this project could do. That film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and turned the Walt Disney corporation into what it is today.
Visionaries are rarely understood by anyone when they’re in the process of making dreams come true. Like everyone, they have their good moments, and they have their bad moments. But even when they’re doing well, people around them don’t always understand the bigger picture. Really though, that’s okay. If everyone understood a vision, it would no longer be a vision, would it? Even after Thomas Edison invented the quadruplex telegraph, did anyone really think he would go on to contribute some of the most influential inventions in history? Even after Abraham Lincoln won his first election and became a state representative, did anyone really expect him to eventually become the president who would keep America from falling apart, while leading it through a crisis in which we saw economic modernization and the end of slavery?
Everyone dreams. Some people dream only at night and when they wake they leave their dreams behind, keeping them only as wishful thinking, often forgetting that they had even dreamt at all. And then there are people who dream awake, who refuse to let someone else’s skepticism bring them down. In doing so they become a dangerous adversary to the opposition, for even if the entire world were to think them worthless, they would be able to rise above it, for the worthy dream of one person is worth far more than the words and actions of millions who were too disdainful to try.
“Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.”