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In the not-very-good 2010 movie “Robin Hood” starring Russell Crowe, a young, naïve King John (played by Oscar Isaac) had one of the funniest lines pertaining to leadership I’ve ever heard in a movie. With absolutely no leadership or battle experience, and only after the troops had already been rallied to go to war by someone else (the real leader), the young king foolhardily proclaimed, “This is my first time, I’ll lead!” and takes off on his own.
In a previous post, I talked about the importance of a leader to build credibility. According to Hughes, Ginnett, and Curphy (2012), there are two components of credibility: (a) Building expertise, and (b) Building trust. Kouzes and Posner (2007) said, “Above all else, we as constituents must be able to believe in our leaders. We must believe that their word can be trusted, that they’re personally passionate and enthusiastic about the work that they’re doing, and that they have the knowledge and skill to lead” (p. 37).
Trust can be viewed as being made up of two things: the ability to clarify and communicate values to others, and the ability to establish, maintain, and strengthen relationships with others (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). The young, inexperienced king in that movie had not forged strong relationships with his men. He did not know them, and they certainly didn’t know anything about him, other than his birthright as king. Kouzes and Posner said in order to rally others, the leader must enable others to act by building solid trust and strong relationships.
Kouzes and Posner looked through thousands of the best cases of leadership and found that one of the best ways to tell if someone is on his/her way to becoming an effective leader is how often this person uses the word “we” instead of “I.”
But what I really love is an even greater lesson about leadership. It’s the idea that leadership is not a birthright, and that it isn’t inherited or reserved only for a few chosen people. Robin Hood was not born of noble blood and while he was portrayed as a leader, if we were to take a closer look at the army of men he led, we would have probably learned that there were great leaders among them.
“Leadership is not a gene and it’s not an inheritance. Leadership is an identifiable set of skills and abilities that are available to all of us. . . . [T]he theory that there are only a few great men and women who can lead others to greatness is just plain wrong. . . . [Great leaders] are the everyday heroes of our world. It’s because there are so many—not so few—leaders that extraordinary things get done on a regular basis, especially in extraordinary times” (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 23).
Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2012). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Robin Hood (2010). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0955308/