"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."
Robert F. Kennedy

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 462

Estimated reading time:   3:19

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Good morning from a sunny Edmonton. I’m here MCing a credit union conference and having a wonderful time. I was thinking recently about metaphors and recalled the brilliant old  Monty Python sketch about flying sheep. An interviewer is asking a shepherd what all of those sheep are doing in the trees.


“They’re perchin’”


“Why are they perching?”


“Because of Harold.”


“Who is Harold?”


“Harold is that most dangerous of creatures, a sheep with brains. He’s realized that a sheep’s life consists of standin’ aroun’ for a bit, and then bein’ eaten. Not a ‘appy prospect for an ambitious sheep.”


As it turns out, Harold has persuaded the other sheep that if they can learn to perch in trees, they can learn to fly. And throughout the sketch, in the background we hear, ‘baaa, thud’. as fail in their flying endeavours.


The reporter asks, “Why don’t you just get rid of Harold?”


“Because of the tremendous economic possibilities of ovine aviation.”


The amazing metaphor is how easily you and I herd, even when logically the activity we are herding on makes no sense.


As much as we might think of ourselves as, ambitious, and independent Harolds (to use the Python image), the science is telling us that we are far more inter-connected than we sometimes like to think. That connection is a good thing in terms of our ability to emphathize and to collaborate.


The sheep metaphor and the sketch mirrors the fact that we are individuals as well as a collaborative species. We live in the tension between the individual and the group, the tension between individual rights and collective rights, the tension between standing on your own two feet and working together towards the common good.


And so, your work as leaders is all about you as an individual. You are Harold. You may not always get it right, but you are a wonderfully unique and amazing creature. You are that most dangerous of creatures, a sheep with brains. And, and this is a very big ‘and’ it is us, we are all in this together; we are a social species, we love to herd. 


May we all be individual Harolds as leaders, leading into uncharted and sometimes even mistaken adventures. And may we all collectively work together, cheering each other on. If you see someone slip, help them up, when you pass someone send them a little wave of encouragement, even a silent “good job.” It is you out there, and it is us out there. We are in the end interconnected individuals, dependent on each other, for success, and for the common good.