January 23, 2020

Choosing The Drum You March To

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it.
Maybe 20. Perhaps more.

There are times when I hardly breathe.
Others when my breath catches painfully at the base of my throat.

I rock gently to Beethoven’s haunting Symphony No. 7 in A major.
And I stare at every strained facial muscle of the man.
A man at a pivotal moment in modern history.
A man who would be King.
A man upon whose words the country would lean and seek courage.

“Except,” he bellows to himself, “I Can’t Speak!”

But he did, you see.
With the outlandish support of Australian guide and mentor, Lionel Logue…
He – the stammer-paralysed George V1 – showed the world that he had a voice!

And – for 5 minutes and 53 seconds – astonished a nation during one of Britain’s darkest hours.

The King’s Speech.

One of the moments which I find most powerful is when ‘Bertie’ starts to gain a powerful rhythm in his words.
And says this:

“For we are called to meet the challenge of a principle… which – if it were to prevail – would be fateful to any civilised order… in the world.
Such a principle – stripped of all disguise – is surely the mere primitive doctrine…
Might is Right.

And there you have it.

The force which has shaped national borders, the rise, the fall, the emergence, the disappearance…
the hubris, the flag-waving, the swaggering, the vanquishing, the grief, the triumph and the delusion.

One of the most overwhelming and unspoken philosophies of our species.
Present in business, wherever you turn.

Might, masquerading as Right.
Big and Brilliant masquerading as Beautiful and Beneficial.

What is undeniable is the magnetic, addictive, siren voice of leaders and organisations who promote such thinking.
Yes, we could learn much from their industry, their skills, their vision, their determination, their drive.

But that isn’t what is in question here.

What’s in question is the clash between Performance and Purpose.
Between your Prowess and your Intent.

In the film, Bertie watched a few seconds of a newsreel, showing Hitler addressing his hordes.
Princess Elizabeth asks “What’s he saying, Daddy?”

Bertie replies, “I don’t know. But he’s saying it rather well!”

The brilliance of leadership displayed on that newsreel…
The mighty machine that he had monstrously masterminded…

These were not in question.
But the intent?
Ah! The intent!

There’s always a choice for each of us to make as leaders.
How we use our gifts and talents.

We can focus our energy on metrics. Commercial results. (‘Shareholder Value’ is a typical example)
Or we can focus on the well-being of those we serve.

What’s fascinating is that…
Done skilfully… history shows that the latter tends to deliver the most extraordinary, sector-leading results.

Be in no doubt…
Might will always parade itself, in any walk of life.
And it will relentlessly carve out its narcissistic path.

But we can choose which song we sing.
We can select which beat we stride to.

We can serve the development of our own might.
Our we can serve the elevating of our neighbour.

In doing so (the Quakers would comment):
”I Lift Thee. And Thee Lift Me.”
(Great shapers of socially progressive movements, the Quakers)

So, I wonder…
What’s your Business Intent for this year?