The link between Great, great leadership and death

The leaders the world remembers as figures who lead change in deeply entrenched systems such as slavery, an India free from British rule, an America where all people are equal, or South Africa free from apartheid, were moved  by something far far greater than themselves.

This is key.

They see something in the world, small or large…that is simply wrong. “Hell no…not on my watch.” And it stirs in them a passion that takes them above any petty concerns about ego, status, wealth or fame.

In the process, they are moved to action that has no compromise. They find a way, make a way…no matter what. Not always pretty, sometimes causing harm.

This might be Ray Anderson turning his carpet manufacturing company from being a producer of toxic waste products to becoming the exemplar of cradle to cradle manufacturing. Or Steve Jobs insistence that technology be beautiful and easy to use.

But what, you might well ask, has this to do with death?

To unleash the passion and commitment that these people lived by they had to face their own death. One cannot live to the extreme of a vision without knowing that it might cost them everything. The truth at any price including the price of their life.

In our present society we avoid at all costs the conversation about death. We do all we can to preserve the image of youth. We discount eldership and wisdom. In the process we remove the single greatest polarity we have when considering a WELL lived life. It is only by facing our death, by knowing that all of this will be done soon, that we can really access our deepest passion.

And it is on our deepest passion that we find our greatest purpose, our greatest contribution. The voice of ours that rises from the depth of our soul and simply cannot be silenced. Will not be silenced.

The path to discovery of this voice is not easy. It requires a deep dive into dark places, into heart ache, death, isolation, loss, loneliness, being misunderstood, vilified…and for this reason few have the courage to journey to this depth. Far easier to live a partial life.

Often the greatest of leaders are so polarised by their passions that they disregard the lingering shadows of their own self that trail them. Far from perfect as human’s they have little time for the slings and arrows that are cast in their direction by people who only see the dark and not the light, see their anger and not their love.

Yet the irony is the impetus to discover our voice and purpose is love. Not some flimsy love that dances in the breeze, but an ocean of love that knows the depths and the heavens and endures all manner of insults, unflinching.

After working with CEO’s, leaders and entrepreneurs for near 20 years, I know one thing. That at their core, what they really want is to do something of real value for society. Something that is bigger than they will ever be. Bigger than a legacy. They want to move from their deepest passion, the truth at any price including the price of their life, and contribute to humanity with love as their ground, their field and their purpose.

In a world obsessed with perfection, with wanting our leader exemplars to be perfect, with finding it far easier to tear down another than stand up to be counted, we are desperate for real leadership.

Along comes Malala Yousafzai…instead of waiting for someone else, she decided that that leader would be her. The truth at any price including the price of your life.

Time now, me thinks, that I step up. What about you? (This is the whole purpose behind my new project, 2.23AM.)

 

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

Steve Jobs.

Photo credit: Christine McDougall (That would be me)

 

 

2 Comments on “The link between Great, great leadership and death”

  1. Pingback: Learn to love what you have been taught to fear « Christine McDougall's Blog – Screw Business as Usual

  2. Pingback: The myth of culture change in organisations « Christine McDougall's Blog – Screw Business as Usual

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