Have you ever been to Gettysburg? I visited in 2016. I was astonished at how tiny the town was and how large the battlefield was. It’s in a beautiful part of the world – hilly, tree-covered. Its stunning forests, with leaves turning, and enormous grassy fields, harbored no indication of its bloody past. You find them only when you visit the memorials and graves. Today is the 157th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which was delivered at the dedication of the cemetery. His 271 words offer insight into what leading like Lincoln means.
What a difference a week makes! Last Sunday I blogged about how to lead during a panic epidemic. (Thanks for all the shares!) Who knew that one week later, schools & universities would be closed, sports seasons cancelled, and sudden onset TPDS – Toilet Paper Derangement Syndrome – the irresistible urge to buy more toilet paper than can be used in a year. What will next Sunday bring? Who knows! For now, let’s tackle the OPPORTUNITY of unexpectedly leading or working from home.
One of my favorite authors, James Thurber, wrote a story called, “The Day the Dam Broke.” It’s a memory from his childhood in Columbus, after the great flood of 1913, when someone yelled, “The dam broke!” A population already stoked by fear from the flood began to bolt down Main Street, certain that they were about to be smashed to bits by a roaring wall of water. Later, when thousands of people sheepishly returned to their homes, they learned they had never been in any danger at all. The dam didn’t break. The panic was more dangerous to residents than the perceived peril.
I have a theory. My theory is that there is an inverse relationship between status/power/rank and open demonstrations of good will. (When I was an engineer we spoke gleefully about inverse relationships as if they were the best kind to have.) In short, the higher we climb in life (status, power, rank) the less we see open kindness within that “elite” community. Life becomes more dog eat dog, me versus you, and good will between competitors (those other leaders in the corporate, non-profit, sports world, or anyone deemed as “on the opposing team”) can be difficult to find. Good will may look like weakness to some, but of course, the opposite is true. However, this notion of weakness can make it more difficult for our young people to understand that good will can be part of a viable success strategy. Plus, it’s free. Doesn’t cost you a dime.
The current battle over the Supreme Court nomination offers the opportunity for a rich dialogue with others, particularly young people, about how youthful choices have adult consequences. Let’s face it. This stuff is not easy. Where do we start? In this blog, I am offering a way to begin, and then some movie clips from To Kill A Mockingbird where lawyer Atticus Finch remains steadfastly connected to integrity, responsibility, and the value of a single human life.