Great leadership takes all kinds of qualities that have been defined and displayed throughout the centuries. But what is the one thing that separates the great leaders from the amateurs and the horrendous tyrants?
I’m a huge Batman fan. And by huge, I mean that I grew up watching the Tim Burton movies along with the Warner Brother’s Cartoon version of Batman, and I loved them. No, I did not read the comic books, (I can hear all of the dorks across the county gasping in arrogant disgust right now) but he was and has always been my favorite Super Hero. The darkness, the humanity, the desire for peace… I just can’t get enough. Chris Nolan and his depiction of the Batman story have taken my wonderment for Batman from a childlike level to something way more meaningful. These aren’t barely-scratch-the-surface stories anymore. These are lessons of man, his/her true nature, and the constant battle against that nature.
As I was watching the recent 13 minute Featurette of The Dark Knight Rises (in theaters July 20th), it dawned on me (with the help of what some of the actors said) that Bruce Wayne and Batman have an accountability group. Alfred, Lucius and Commissioner Gordon are his elders; they speak truth and reality into his life from a different perspective, thus helping shape his decisions for the better.
This is so important, and dare I say CRUCIAL, to the leadership process. You simply cannot only possess the qualities that a leader needs to succeed, and often times those qualities develop from having wise voices in your life.
These three key characters in the Batman Trilogy all have different roles they play. Alfred acts as the father, pushing Bruce to think logically and with conviction, Lucius is the free-spirited, yet ethical voice that Bruce needs to keep him grounded, and Commissioner Gordon encourages and protect his name, pushing him to be more than just a man.
A favorite scene of mine from The Dark Knight involved a dialogue between Bruce and Alfred, and it went as follows:
Bruce Wayne: Targeting me won’t get their money back. I knew the mob wouldn’t go down without a fight, but this is different. They crossed the line.
Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.
Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he’s after.
Alfred Pennyworth: With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that you don’t fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?
Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Later on Bruce asks Alfred if they caught the bandit, to which Alfred informs him that they did, but they had to burn the forest down. Alfred, not necessarily disagreeing with Bruce or discouraging him from his mission, was simply being a voice of reason and perhaps playing the devil’s advocate in this scene, provoking him to think harder and outside of the box on the issue at hand.
Not all decisions are black and white, but without the wisdom of others, we can often see them that way. When we encounter the gray areas, it is not about making the right or wrong decision; it’s about making the best one.
Who, in your life, is keeping you accountable? Who do you have around you that pushes you to be better, encouraging the good ideas and challenging you when the not so good ideas surface?
It doesn’t matter if you are a business owner, a husband, a super-mom, or a person in your community that holds a lot of attention. You need these people in your life to keep you focused, to help you see reality and to encourage you to be the best leader that you can be.
And with that being said, I CANNOT WAIT to see the ending unfold of this truly remarkable trilogy.