Although this NYT piece was published nearly a year ago, I found it as current and relevant as ever. It captured my attention, challenged me, and forced me, once again, to consider the very personal and moral nature of leadership.
But, back to the connection…I was just a few paragraphs in when a string of words jumped out at me and grabbed me by the collar: "I came to the conclusion,” Brooks reflected, “that wonderful people are made, not born—that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.”
“Has Brooks been reading The Leadership Challenge?”, I wondered to myself. I saw how clearly he was echoing some of the supporting truths of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® model. So, I read the piece again, this time through a leadership lens. And that’s when the connections all fell so fully into place, because what Brooks' "moral bucket list" was truly reminding me of was that the best leaders:
- Are humble and "profoundly honest about their own weaknesses."
- Build character and defeat their weaknesses through deliberate, life-long practice
- Can't do it alone, especially when attempting to achieve self-mastery.
- Have achieved a "settled philosophy about fundamental things" (yes, LPI® item #26).
- Are energized by love (remember how Jim often closes his speeches, revealing the secret to success in life).
- Are propelled by conscience. As Brooks describes, "feel fulfilled only when they are enmeshed in a struggle on behalf of some ideal." Jim and Barry's notion that "challenge is the crucible for greatness" supports this point. . .or even their definition of leadership: “The art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations.”
Lisa Shannon is currently Vice President and Director, Partner Channels at Wiley. She has been nurturing and supporting The Leadership Challenge® brand for over 20 years, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.