The movie Braveheart featured a scene in which the Scottish army was assembled at Stirling Bridge, outnumbered three-to-one by more heavily-armed English troops. The Scottish nobles were scared, and considered whether they should negotiate with the English rather than fight. Several Scottish soldiers considered leaving, unwilling to die just so the nobles could get more land.
But just when it looked as if the soldiers would turn and flee, William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson) rode in on his horse ready for battle, face painted the colors of the Scottish flag. Wallace delivered an impassioned speech, convincing the soldiers that it would be better to die that day as free men than to live long lives without their freedom.
Moments like that—where Wallace was able to create a compelling vision for his team—are the ones that often come to mind when we think of leadership.
But talk alone isn’t leadership. Yes, one of the responsibilities of leadership involves creating that compelling vision and inspiring others to follow it. But, whether in battle or in business, our job as leaders is also to live by our own words, set the example, and demonstrate how we expect people to act. And when times get especially tough, we need to stand in the trenches with our team, working together to meet the challenge.
A few minutes later in Braveheart, after insulting the leader of the English forces, Wallace dismounted his horse and, armed with nothing more than the sword in his hands, raced off on foot towards the enemy and what looked like certain death. He fought side-by-side with his men, singlehandedly taking on at least two dozen enemy soldiers. When the battle was over, the rag-tag group of Scottish soldiers led by Wallace had achieved their major victory in their war for independence.
That’s leadership (murder not recommended).
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