Leadership and helplessness

by Philip Patston.

The tyranny of leadership is the sense of knowing how to keep things going. To overcome barriers. To resolve conflict. To leverage influence. To make change.

When people die, all that goes out the window.

In the last three weeks, the daughter of a close friend and colleague lost her baby — and an alumnus of the Be. Leadership programme I co-direct passed away.

When people die, there’s nothing to keep going. Things need to stop. Others need to reflect.

It’s been a hard three weeks for me. My frolleague (friend/colleague) has been overseas supporting her daughter. I’ve also had to be part of telling Be. Leadership alumni about the loss of their friend.

When people die, there’s nothing you can do.

A lovely acquaintance of mine, a counsellor whom I have been advising, made a useful observation today. She said, “It must be especially hard for you to be helpless.”

Eureka! As a “disabled person”, I try to dispel myths that we are helpless. But helplessness is, of course, an issue.

Without funding and support, I could be helpless. It’s my projection but not unfounded.

It’s easy, in leadership, to think, “I can help.” Sometimes though, we need the courage to say, “I can’t.”


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