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Posts Tagged ‘courage’

Go First

October 9, 2012 3 comments

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.   — Lao Tzu

First Turning LeavesThis inspiring thought from Lao Tzu is often quoted, and I think, is often true. A leader succeeds best when her followers have adopted her vision as their own; embracing it so fully they don’t even recognize that it came from outside them.

It’s also true, though, that sometimes a leader has to be visible in her willingness to go first, literally to lead—and I am not only referring to “hero leaders” in positions of formal authority. Each of us, from time to time, has the option to go first from the middle of the pack. When all the other leaves are green, one leaf has to say, “Well, it’s time to turn orange now.”

“But,” you may object, “I don’t want to be the first leaf to turn. That leaf is dying!” Yes, it’s dying, and leadership often involves a kind of dying. We have to acknowledge the death of the system or the process or the product or the relationship that until now was the way we knew. We have to trust in the rightness of what’s next. (I’m aware, by the way, that leaves don’t actually have a choice in the matter…but you get my point.)

We go first when we become aware of something that the others aren’t aware of yet, when we get unhooked from something that is still getting in the others’ way, when we love the others enough to take the risk.

Where is your opportunity to go first right now?

Long Odds

August 1, 2011 3 comments

Pastured horse in sunsetWhen Australian Cadel Evans took to the podium last week as the winner of the 2011 Tour de France, he said, “I just want to say thank you to everyone who’s had faith in me.”

It was a poignant moment for Evans who at 34, became the oldest winner in the Tour’s modern era, rewarding the patience of fans who had been disappointed to see him settle for runner-up status in the race several times over the past few years. But the loyal support he alluded to in his remarks after the victory had an even longer history. When he was eight years old, Evans was kicked in the head by a horse and spent several weeks in a coma, throwing his very survival into question, and making his eventual success at the pinnacle of professional sports truly improbable.

There are few story lines more appealing than the triumph of the underdog. Maybe that’s why so many of us carry around our own version of the tale, nursing along our awareness of the “horses” that have kicked us in the head to complicate our road to success.

But can we all really be underdogs? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying that each of us has been kicked in the head a few times. I’m just raising the possibility that from the vantage point of Now, we might find that we’ve been complicit in preserving some vestige of disability to explain why that ultimate prize has eluded us.

What if we had the courage to put those cantankerous old horses out to pasture for good? What’s stopping us from going for the yellow jersey now?