Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership

handsA decade ago, I met a woman who served as an instructor at the United States Chamber of Commerce Institute of Organizational Management.  In 2000, I graduated from the program for Chamber of Commerce Executives which took place in Charleston, South Carolina.  There we discussed the means by which we could be “masters” of our given professions.  Throughout the program which took place for a week over four years, we discussed topics ranging from ethical leadership to volunteer development. Perhaps the message which made the most impact on me was a piece shared by one of our instructors on the Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership.

Dr. Kent M. Keith, wrote the commandments which were later used by Mother Teresa.  The statements were thought provoking for me and I think you will find them meaningful as well.  Keith writes:

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. Succeed anyway.

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 people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest ideas.  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.  Build anyway.

People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them.  Help them anyway.   

Keith saved what I felt was the best for last.  He said, “Give the world the best you have andann marie you’ll get kicked in the teeth.   But give the world the best you have anyway.”   Simple truths for challenging times.  Sometimes they seem too difficult to put into practice.   Perhaps…. but wouldn’t it be great –  just to do it anyway?

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I’ll take the unexpected over the routine everday!

pleasantvilleThe other night I caught a movie on TV starring Tobey McGuire called “Pleasantville”.  These days most of us think of Tobey as Spiderman.  Similar to the Back to the Future flicks with Michael J. Fox, Tobey takes a trip back to the 1950’s.  The premise of the 1998 movie is two teenagers, through the wizardry of science, are transported into a 1950s sitcom. They land in Pleasantville where everything is black and white with a touch of gray. Life is slow and easy in Pleasantville. It’s always 70 degrees and sunny.  The undefeated high school basketball team never misses a basket and Mr. Johnson’s Malt Shop is always open to serve up your favorite cheeseburger. Things are pretty routine in the small town where lover’s lane is confined to hand holding and the biggest challenge for the fire department is rescuing a kitten from a tree.

The Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce spends most of its time repainting the “Welcome” sign and conducting the Annual Pancake Breakfast.  There is no economic downturn and no unemplopyment.  There are no traffic jams to contend with; no problems with overcrowding at the schools; no single-parent families or marital discourse.  There is no life outside of Pleasantville, where the population never changes and no one ever visits.  To the citizens who live there, there is only Pleasantville. So what is there not to like about this idealistic setting?pleasant 2

There’s no color in the trees. There is nothing diverse or unique about the people. Nothing unexpected ever happens.  Perhaps the best thing about our life is that we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We can plan for our future and shape our destiny but we must accept the fact that tomorrow will be different than today. Our team won’t make every basket and it just might rain tomorrow.  Things might not come easy to us but the rewards make the effort worthwhile. There are some who would rather live in Pleasantville, but not me. I’d rather face a day with unbridled opportunities than to know what’s going to happen.  I’ll work to tackle the challenges we face and feel good when we overcome them. Give me the unexpected over the routine any day. You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. Besides,we seem to spend more time at the Lake Norman Chamber creating new signs rather than repainting them and our Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs already have a pancake breakfast.