Leadership and The Princess Bride

I'm reminded of a scene in The Princess Bride - one of our favorite movies. You remember the part I'm talking about - where Vizzini keeps exclaiming "inconceivable!" as the Man in Black gains on his ship.

Westley has almost caught up and Vizzini yells "inconceivable!" one last time.

Inigo then classically replies, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means."

Yes, people keep using that word - "leadership". Preachers, teachers, authors and businessmen throw the term around like crazy. But in many cases, like Inigo, "I do not think it means what they think it means." :)

Here's my proposition.
Three fundamental things must be in place for you to be a leader. There's more, to be sure. But let's look for now at just these three.

1) Good leaders must be in motion - they must be going somewhere.
Think about it. How, exactly, can I follow you - if you're not moving? I know - this seems simplistic.
But I challenge you to take a close look at a few leaders in your life, and see if they're actually moving you and those around you to any place in particular. Are they moving in any discernable direction, or are they simply occupying a position?

In my observations, many "leaders" are just taking up space.

2) Good leaders have a constantly increasing tolerance for risk.
So you're moving, But you naturally don't want to tread back over the same old ground. And your followers won't want to either.
So you'll need to strike out in adventurous, new directions. And so - that means you must have an increasing tolerance for risk.
Notice I did not say by how much your tolerance for risk must increase at each interval.  Thus I am not saying you must go directly from bravely climbing a stepladder in your living room, to boldly free-solo climbing El Capitan.
We'd be presenting your next of kin with your honorary Darwin Award at the funeral, and that would be shame - yes?  :)

However, the definition of the word "leading" implies that you must have the capacity to assess and tolerate ever-increasing amounts of risk.
Even if the incremental increase is tiny - it means that you are moving, that you are going somewhere and that you are courageously stepping into what is, for you and your followers, the Great Unknown.
3)  Good leaders lead through even their own uncertainty.
There's a dirty little secret of the human condition I've seen glossed over by some smug pseudo-leaders that act as if they've got all the answers. Now don't tell anyone I shared this with you - but here's the secret.
Ladies and gentlemen - the future is vague, foggy and uncertain for all of us, including our leaders.
Rich or poor, beautiful or not-so, intelligent or less-so - it doesn't matter. The future is full of ambiguity and uncertainty no matter who you are. So if the future's foggy for everyone, including our leaders - what then differentiates true leaders from the rest of us?
Again, there are lots of character traits, behaviors and such that characterize true leaders. But underneath it all, I believe you'll find these attributes.

True leaders will be in motion and they'll train themselves to appropriately expand their risk tolerance.

True leaders will stand up and lead through the fog.

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