Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sophocles to Conrad Black: Wish We'd Had a Chat

The contrast in leadership stories was hard to miss. Toronto’s Ed Mirvish, who dubbed himself, “Honest Ed” was described as “an icon who never put himself on a pedestal” and whose kindness to people, especially new immigrants to the city, gave them a sense of dignity and belonging. The adjectives for Conrad Black ran the gamut of arrogant, an inflated sense of entitlement and a disdain for anyone who put obstacles in his way.

Who would you rather be as a leader, let alone a person in this world? Conrad has gotten himself into a mighty mess. Too bad he didn’t take some of Sophocles’ wisdom to heart.

One of the greatest hazards for leaders, according to Sophocles, is the suppression of dialogue with knowledgeable and concerned people around them. In the play Antigone, Sophocles drives home the message that a tough task for all leaders is to resist their own instincts and commitments. In that leaders often face a messy and chaotic combination of feelings, thoughts, facts and analyses to sift through, Sophocles recommends good deliberation. That should include a clear examination of history and a sensible assessment of the consequences if certain actions are taken. Sophocles underscores that the exercise is not an individual but a communal one.

He pushes his point further: Listening is not enough. That which prevents going down dangerous roads is a deep regard for people.

Much will be written in the days ahead as to why and how Conrad Black shot himself in the foot with his own personality. These are the mysteries of life. Only Lord Black really knows. That’s why self-awareness is a lifelong challenge in developing leadership effectiveness.

See the books by Joseph L. Badaracco’s Questions of Character and Karen Armstrong’s A Short History of Myth for more insight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Formidable ... ne oubliez pas cette lecon.