If humility is a desirable quality in leaders, why do so many leadership authors insist on bragging? I went through the contents page of one such book recently and discovered that the Vietnam War, the death of Captain Scott and certain failures of Abraham Lincoln might have been averted if only the respective leaders had known the X number of laws of leadership, i.e., had read the book. These are outlandish claims and deserve to be thrown on their heads.
What’s worse, it’s always deceased leaders whose mistakes get quoted or successes harnessed to endorse these specious leadership principles, which conveniently means that they can’t speak up to refute the claims made about them. Who is taking an honest stand and pointing out that exaggerated truth is akin to lies? That a Nile Rogers riff and a kiss from your kids can have greater lasting motivational power than any keynote speaker? More to the point, do these people actually have time to lead or are they too busy bashing out bestselling books?
Assuming I was ever enamoured with leadership, I find myself increasingly falling out of love with the language. The best leaders I know are at their best when talking about failure with integrity, about weakness and underachievement, which, let’s face it, is where most of us spend our days. Why are we so enthralled by the ones who make it big? Can’t we hear from the ones who make it to contentment? I’m all for the eye of the tiger when it comes to half time Super Bowl, but please, does anyone need to hear me roar on Monday morning?
One of the reasons I love the Bible is its fearless concern to tell the truth, and so we learn that Jesus was popular, unpopular, and in the end bereft of friends. The disciples, meanwhile, followed, doubted, worshipped and wavered. The twelve apostles, founders of the church, fell to eleven before the church even began, and it was a number of years before Paul could make sense of his own experiences, never mind anyone else’s. These are the kinds of people I’d like to get to know; these are founding failures that have transformed societies across the globe.
So I’ll leave you to ponder the chapter headings of my unintended-to-be-read-or-published book:
1. Be born.
– It’s one thing we all have in common.
2. Sit with the crowd.
– It’s always better to look up to people than down on them, physically and metaphysically.
3. Realise life is a gift.
– And say thank you to the giver.
4. Enjoy Nile Rogers.
Or maybe I’ll remind you that the Bible is the number one bestseller worldwide year in year out. And for very very good reasons.