Gandalf – The Perfect Leader

I’ve just been talking to my friend Chris who does a lot of work with the research science of leadership. He was telling me about a client who is suffering because she is changing the way she wants to work to satisfy what she feels her leaders require of her. One of us started talking about how Frodo was mentored brilliantly by Gandalf. Gandalf never asked Frodo to be someone different – in fact he encouraged him to be himself as that was what made him best for the job. Frodo felt pressure to be someone different. He thought he should be stronger, braver, taller. He thought that was what was expected of heroes.

In the work place, leaders often force their workers to be something outside of what they truly are. Sometimes that pressure is unspoken like that from a dominant personality. Sometimes it is spoken and sometimes yelled. Making someone perform in ways that they’re not comfortable with is always harmful. If someone works best taking direction, forcing them to self-direct creates stress and discomfort. If an employee’s energy and enthusiasm is what keeps them happy and alive, asking them to be reserved and methodical can be horrifying.

Gandalf knew that to get the best from someone, they should not be asked to change. Frodo had many companions to help with the areas he was weak in. Boromir, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli were able to handle the fighting. Legolas and Aragorn helped with their ability to speak to the elves. Samwise brought his perseverance. In a way Gandalf assembled a team to get a job done. If Gandalf had stayed quiet in his role as leader, Frodo may well have failed as he tried to be a different hero to the one he truly was.

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4 Responses to Gandalf – The Perfect Leader

  1. Liara Covert February 2, 2007 at 11:30 pm #

    I like the analogy of Frodo and Gandalf. The profile of one man I view as a hero encourages me to examine my own life, the value of patience and how I can empower others to discover the hero inside themselves. This person distinguishes himself by choosing to take control of his life. Up until the recent past, he felt weak and accepted his business partner and other people took advantage of him. His work, low confidence and sense of helplessness clouded a real sense of purpose. Then, unexpected love and support arrived to help him realize his existence and efforts had deeper value. He evolved to see himself as full of untapped potential. He focused on a dream to motivate himself. He developed his own creative potential. He cut reduced work hours, developed assertiveness and distanced himself from people who didn’t encourage or empower him. He then attracted people into his life whom he could help and he also grew to become a late-in-life husband and father. He became a hero to people with whom he shared his story of triumph because he encouraged them to realize they too could step forward and make a valuable contribution.

  2. Chris February 3, 2007 at 9:57 am #

    Nice story Liara. Nothing is better than finding meaning in life through strengths you already have. Victor Frankl did this for hundreds of Jews in concentration camps. They thought they had to go above and beyond human capabilities in order to survive to the next day. Frankl helped them define meaning in their life – if one person was currently writing a book, he would encourage them to finish their book before they decided to pass. He never encouraged the visualization of a meaning in one’s life more than what they were capable of doing with the little resources they had. Antithetical leaders often communicate visions which are either too grandiose or unrealistic and when there are disconnections between one person’s capabilities and the vision communicated, leaders seldom encourage the art of leveraging as a means to achieve.

  3. Matt Langdon February 3, 2007 at 10:04 am #

    Thanks Liara, that’s a really fantastic story that has so many factors that I’m trying to encourage with the Hero Workshop. Embracing who you are and not what other people want you to be is often the first step to being a hero to others. Once you’re a hero you can inspire others to do the same.

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