Friday, August 13, 2004

Leadership where you'd least expect it

With a heavy heart that I express this next post.

Today I was thinking to myself -- why do we only laud the leaders who are well-publicised? Simon and I have strong marketing bents - Simon vastly moreso than I. We understand the delicate passe-a-deux that marketing plays in the complex matrix of what people choose to invest their attention in - then what they choose to ignore. I suppose it's because I'm intimately familiar with this dynamic that I'm dismayed to express that it is the leaders we've probably never even heard of most deserving of considerable honourable mention.

It occurred to me as part of this that leaders hailing from the Third World are often given terribly short shrift. We know well of leaders like Ghana's Kofi Annan -- I suppose because he resides in one of busiest cities on the planet -- New York -- in addition that he works for one of the world's governing bodies -- the United Nations.

Yet there are scads of influential leaders coming from places we've never even heard of -- or, rather, if we've heard of them, we've never even been nor may want to be there. Take the example of David M. from Johannesburg. David's really nobody.


I'm not evaluating his worth. No way. I'm merely evaluating him in the grand scheme of the humongous "Leadership Industry." David goes about his daily business, getting gigs, earning money, being a doting son, and keeping his word when it comes to meetings and commitments.

You see, David's an actor.

One of the most inspirational things I remember hearing from him:

"Always forward, never back!"

in reference to the stance he and his colleague took during South Africa's Apartheid years. Come what may, they'd never take retrograde steps. If they made an inch of progress in any area, you'd darn well near have to do something drastic to get them to retreat an inch -- even then there were no guarantees!

It's catchy witticisms like those I'll fall back on when I need a little 'pick-me-up.' Not large grandiose statements like: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Helpful, though the equivalent mass-marketing of the era.

Something tells me the battle-tested grunt in the field paid more attention to the seemingly pithy cajoling of his platoon captain: "Get me to the top of that hill Riley, and there's extra weekend leave for you in Paris!" than the effusive puffery emanating from London or Washington.

Just an idea. What do you think?


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