In a recent bit of sport commentary, I heard a broadcaster say of a player “from up here in the box I always thought him to be a humble man, but his teammates tell me he’s actually very confident”. This made me reflect on how frequently I hear people mix up the complex relationship between humility and confidence.
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I remember a line in an old war movie. A wise old Colonel is telling a young officer “on the battlefield you represent me and the way you represent me, reflects on me”.
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My great-grandfather Edwin (Ted) Leane was one of The Fighting Leanes of Prospect – once called the “most famous family of soldiers in Australian history” by historian and war correspondent, Charles Bean.
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Some years ago I was in charge of a small section of Navy people. There was me, a couple of other slightly more junior officers and a handful of non-commissioned sailors one of which was an indigenous Australian. As was often the case in those days he’d be ‘given’ a nick-name Sooty, probably on the day he joined the Navy. He didn’t seem to mind being called Sooty but I refrained from doing so as it seemed disrespectful in some way. That might sound like positive leadership behaviour but its not the case. You see I called the other sailors by their nicknames: Smouch, Jacko, Dusty etc but I addressed Sooty as ‘Leader’ which was the abbreviated, slightly formal version based on his rank, Leading Seaman. In trying to be respectful I was in fact excluding him in the way I addressed him.
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One way a leader can murder team performance is to selfishly place themselves in the middle of everything, right in the hub. Picture an old sailing ship helm. Hub in the middle, spokes and a rim at the outer limit. This is hardly original thinking but in my mind if the leader is in the hub, team members sit on the handles that protrude from the outer rim and the spokes are lines of communication.
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When I was a teenager my sisters introduced me to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Nash, the smooth, Welsh ex-Hollies musician was a terrific songwriter and these words from ‘Wounded Bird’ (Songs for Beginners, 1971) always struck a chord: