Where Are The Leaders? Where Are Our Heroes?
In 1968, the nationally and internationally renowned American writer and leader in higher education, Dr. Kent M. Keith, authored a piece titled “Paradoxical Commandments,” which he published in a booklet for student leaders entitled, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council .
The “paradox” in which he chose were statements of what he believed to be some unflattering truths of humankind, which served as the perfect backdrop to highlight by contrast his “commandments” and beliefs on how to be a good leader. If you’re familiar with country singer/songwriter Martina McBride’s song Do it Anyway, you might wonder if Dr. Keith had any inspirational influence on her song – it’s the first thing that came to mind for me when I read these “commandments’ for the first time:
“The Paradoxical Commandments
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
Great goals for leaders, aren’t they? And thanks to Martina McBride, great rules for life in general! We can all apply these to our own lives, but I’d like to make a suggestion for you to consider. Memorize these words, or post them on a plaque or a sticky note somewhere that you will be reminded of them daily. These are “commandments” that have a much farther reach than how to be a good leader. They are rules for all humanity.
Look for these rules in your daily life and make sure your goals in life are attached in some way to Dr. Keith’s ideas. But more than that, as you cultivate them in yourself, do the same for your friends, family, and co-workers. Cultivate these ideas into every facet of your life; every facet of your very existence. You will be a much better (fill in the blank) than you could ever imagine if you can adhere to these commandments regularly.
Equally as important, nurture these “Do-It-Anway-isms” in kids – not just your own if you have any, but in ALL kids. Why? Because you are being watched more than most of you could ever possibly know… constantly. Kids can read and learn about these characteristics, but that only goes so far. These tenants of being a good person become more sticky when kids see them played out in their parents, teachers, friends and other people they may know. There is no better way to help kids become great adults than to give them someone to emulate. And often time, that someone is YOU, whether you want to be or not.
When I was teaching high school band, I made an effort to help kids find a hero; someone they admired and could look up to and want to be like. Some will tell you that there are less of those today than there used to be, and to that I say, “Pfffft..ridiculous!” We have an abundance of great leaders and heroes that live and breathe the same air as we do this very day!
But if you or your kids get stuck or frustrated that you can’t find a true leader or a true hero, you might be looking in the wrong places. Sure, give the TV or the internet a try. Look to pro athletes and celebrities, too. As we all know, that doesn’t always work out for us, because those people are truly no different than you and I. They screw up and make mistakes, they break the law, and do unethical things. But don’t abandon your heroes when they do that! Why? Because that is where you will find the rawest and authentic opportunities to watch your heroes respond to adversity. It’s the bottom floor of where true character and leadership is built.
I also suggest that we all make a habit of collecting heroes – kind of like collecting unique rocks by the lake or ocean. Everyone is different and each has a beauty that is owned exclusively by them, and we can admire the parts of that beauty that we value personally. To accomplish a good collection, though, you’re going to have to think way beyond the obvious TV/internet-trending/jock/celebrity type heroes.
The best heroes are usually the one’s you already know or are in close proximity to at any given time. Your friends,your boss, the garbage collector, your brother or sister or even (gulp) your parents! And of course… your TEACHERS!! My God, my friends – teachers are the people that chose you long before you ever knew them – find out why. Learn their story. Learn as many stories as you can, as a matter of fact. They are abundant – everybody has one! And people you admire and elevate in your mind and heart to the status of “hero” or “leader” – well, they have the best stories of all.
Sound like a lot of effort? So what. Do it anyway. 🙂
With Love, Peace, and Hope,