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.