GORDON SANITAIRE by Gordon Urquhart (VIII)

Leadership In Action

Some men have a way of commanding a room. The space seems to draw in around them, and the people within the space do too, and the commanding presence seems to make the room his. (Women don’t tend to do this. They’re more likely to sit in a circle and chat. All very democratic, I’m sure, but this sort of behaviour isn’t the best foundation for business leadership, which rightly prizes individual strength.) When the charismatic man talks others listen. It is as though he is performing on an invisible stage and his listeners are the audience. He changes the subject when it suits him, and he includes people in the conversation – or performance – when the mood takes him. It is like a medieval baron conferring his favour on a young courtier, in front of the other young courtiers, and in the presence of everyone else, so that all can understand what power he wields and what an advantageous and coveted thing it is to be one of his inner circle.

For some time now I have tried to show Titus, my eldest grandson, examples of leadership in action. Leadership is a state of mind as much as a succession of acts, and although it usually entails the exercise of power, I have tried to emphasise that being able to tell people what to do is merely a by-product of the leader’s attitude, his strength of character, and his clarity of vision. The message is not always received, however, and Titus does love the idea of issuing orders. (Who can blame him?)

I told him that we are all leaders. This seemed to confuse him, so I added that we need to start by showing leadership within ourselves, to be our best. Titus rejected that notion, labelling it “pooey”. He also called it “pathetic”, which demonstrates a pretty advanced vocabulary for a three year-old. (Three and a half, Titus has started telling people).

And so when a man was commanding the room recently I told Titus to watch him. I told him to observe how the audience were his followers, and how a powerful man ought to treat the weak well, despite their weakness, as it is good to be liked, and to be liked engenders loyalty, and loyalty from your followers means they will do things for you which they wouldn’t do for someone else. And I said we are all leaders, and Titus told me to shush, and we both listened.

The man was telling a story, and people leaned towards him as he told it. It was about a friend of his called Pablo: “… and so I said, ‘Pablo, old chum, we’ve been through a lot of scrapes together. You’ve never let me down. Even that time in Riga, inside the dorm of the Latvian Cheerleading Academy, and I had been drinking vodka for sixteen hours. You bailed me out then, didn’t you buddy. I thought you weren’t going to come to my rescue, but we really cheered up those cheerleaders, didn’t we? All twelve of them …’” At this point I removed Titus from the rather off-colour story about a man’s Baltic escapades and sat him down where his Nanna and some friends were talking about what the European Central Bank should do next. Titus had had enough leadership for the day.

Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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