Leaders or Fools

I wonder what someone would have called you if you suggested, say 30, or even 20 years ago that people would get their news and ideas from a handheld TV that they use as a telephone.  What would you have said to the person 30 years ago who suggested that you would “meet” people all over the globe using a computer?  Be honest.  We’re talking about 1981, the year the PC first shipped.

In the claw-your-way-to-the-top business world of the 60’s – 80’s, it sounded silly, even foolish to suggest that you could grow your business by freely sharing your intelligence.  The world’s wealth was scarce and to get ahead you had to climb over others or take something from them.  Business was war.

For many today, business is still war.  Do you remember who said this and when?

“Think big.  Think positive.  Never show any sign of weakness.  Always go for the throat. Buy low. Sell high.  Fear, that’s the other guy’s problem.  Nothing you have ever experienced can prepare you for the unbridled carnage you’re about to witness.  The Super Bowl, the World Series; they don’t know what pressure is.  In this building, it’s either kill or be killed.  You make no friends in the pits and you take no prisoners. One minute, you’re up half a million in soybeans and the next minute – Boom – your kids don’t go to college and they’ve repossessed your Bentley. Are you with me?” – Dan Aykroyd as Louis Winthorpe III in Trading Places, Released in 1983.

Back in the 80’s when I graduated from college, kill-or-be-killed was the prevailing mindset.  The way you got to “the top” was by climbing.  There are a few businesses and industries where this mindset remains the prevailing attitude.  Everything is a competition.  The person with the most “insert whatever here” wins.

In 1983, it would have seemed very foolish to suggest that you can give away everything you have and still “get ahead.”

"But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Jesus (Luke 6:27-28 NET)

Now you can criticize me for using Jesus as an example which I occasionally do, but I believe he has a few more followers than Jack Welch, Thomas Watson or Henry Ford, not to even mention the ones we famously like to quote, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, or Winston Churchill.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Dr. Martin Luther King.

"The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving." Albert Einstein.

"You make a living by what you get.  You make a life by what you give." Winston Churchill.

It seemed foolish then and it seems foolish today to think that we can gain by what we give away.  Each of the leaders quoted appeared foolish before reaching their pinnacle of influence.  Dr. King was killed for his influence.

Fools are dangerous.  They aren’t easily controlled and they don’t usually behave.  They don’t conform, but they transform.

Will you be a fool?  Status Quo’s and “best practices” don’t fall easily.  Remember, many people believed to be a fool were (and are) courageous leaders in disguise.  It seemed foolish to think the world was round, that humans could fly, or that we could walk on the moon.  It seemed foolish to think that you could get ahead by putting others first.  It seems foolish to believe that the greatest person is the servant of all.

The problem with stepping out on what you believe is... you really may be fool.

But what are you if you never try?

Here’s to trying.

Photos: Splash! Fish Jumps iStockPhoto © Charles Ciho, I wish I could Fly by MoreSatisfyingPhotos.com

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