“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous”? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others” – Marianne Williamson
Written by the poet and spiritual healer, Marianne Williamson, this quotation was made famous when Nelson Mandela read it during his inaugural speech, as President of South Africa in 1994. The words resonate now as they did then, continuing to connect with a global audience. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela spoke of the loneliness and isolation he experienced as a leader, not least of course when he spent decades imprisoned, away from his family and community. In many ways those of us who looked to him for inspiration, along with other great leaders, share part of the experience of being alone, perceived by others as separate, at the top or front of an organisation leading it forward. We’re responsible for persuading others to believe in our vision, whether a society, a community, or a business.
Increasingly, I’m aware that leadership isn’t just about the individual but in fact, more about harnessing the skills and talents of others in a group and using them to achieve a common objective. Leadership is also about reflecting on our own vulnerabilities and weaknesses and recognising we’re just like others around us but understanding that in itself, vulnerability can be a strength. Combined with the strength of others, we can lead others to achieve great things.
Another great example is Coach Carter, an American basketball coach from California, who received notoriety after he suspended his undefeated High School team, after they received poor school marks. I can’t recommend the film version highly enough, having watched it only a few weeks ago. Samuel L Jackson portrays the coach and repeatedly asks one of his students what his deepest fear is. Eventually, the student stands and repeats Marianne Williamson’s poem to Coach Carter. The emotive response, as a thank you from the team, to their coach for everything he’s taught them as a leader is extremely emotive and “powerful beyond measure”.
If you’d like to watch Nelson Mandela delivering his inaugural speech please click here
Ian Price is Chief Executive of the Academy. He has a reputation and track-record for growing profitable businesses rapidly. His affable demeanour and relaxed style of working hides an exceptional talent at being able to focus on what makes a business tick.
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