“Look in the mirror and decide what you see.”
This advice from an acting coach to his young theater student could have the same impact as an experienced leader instructing a novice follower.
It would seem simple enough. Take a long, hard look into a mirror and see who is looking back. Yet, our fantasy, illusions and ego could play tricks on our vision.
Imagine a young Jimmy Durante, with dreams of a show business career. He looks in his mirror and sees Cary Grant staring back. With this lofty image, it inspires Durante to audition for handsome leading man roles who win the love and adoration of beautiful leading ladies.
Can you guess what happens at these auditions? The director, not wanting to bruise the young actor’s sensitive personality, says, “Thank you, but we are looking for someone … taller.”
Frustrated, but still determined to find Cary Grant roles, Durante buys lift shoes and pin-stripped suits to add height to his stature.
What happens at the next audition? “Sorry, we need someone with … a British accent.”
In the audition after that: “Unfortunately, the part calls for someone … like Cary Grant”
Of course, we know Durante looked in the mirror and saw a piano playing comedian, with a gravelly speech pattern and a prominent nose, his “schnozzola” – which he proudly flaunted as his trademark. Perfect for the character actor who became a beloved performer in vaudeville, stage, film, radio and television.
In like manner, leaders in the business world know why they rise to the top of their professions. They have looked inwardly at the mirror within themselves and recognize they possess the intelligence, skills and determination to lead and set examples for others to follow.
Followers who work with such visionary leaders will flourish when they realize they play a vital role to support the leader.
Both the leader and follower share similar qualities. Leaders also becomes a follower. They must follow the direction of their board of directors, and even more important, the needs of the company’s customers.
Followers, no matter what position they hold in the chain of command, often take a leadership role as well. Whether working alone or with co-workers, they often find themselves as unofficial leaders to get the job done.
The key is to recognize how one fits into the leadership and follower’s role. Although it can be elusive at times, it is necessary to have a true picture of how one fulfills these essential positions. The better one recognizes the “picture in the mirror,” the greater will be the rewards.
In his poem “To A Louse,” Scottish poet, Robert Burns in 1786 captures the significance of this this important distinction. The poem portrays how we can embarrass ourselves with unrealistic expectations. His poem describes a lady as she struts into church showing off her new bonnet. She does not realize a louse has been squirming along the bonnet’s brim for everyone to see. In rich Scottish brogue he concludes the poem with these prophetic words:
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
Leaders need loyal followers. Followers are fortunate if they have motivational leaders.
When each see the roles they play, everyone succeeds.
Steve Hrehovcik is a freelance writer and artist. His book Rebel Without a Clue - a Way-Off Broadway Memoir is available on Amazon. His website is: www.kennebunkartstudio.com