Monday, February 8, 2010

Practice What You Believe

Standing and perusing my bookshelf my eyes settled on an old friend. Max DuPree, the head of Herman Miller for many years wrote "Leadership is an Art." It has always been one of my favorites because it speaks to leadership principles with a simple yet compelling style. Looking at it on the shelf I recalled an illustration he used.

“The noted English architect, Sir Christopher Wren once built a structure in London. His employers claimed that a certain span Wren planned was too wide, that he would need another row of columns for support. Sir Christopher, after some discussion, acquiesced. He added a row of columns, but he left a space between the unnecessary columns and the beams above.

“The worthies of London could not see this space from the ground. To this day, the beam has not sagged. The columns still stand firm, supporting nothing but Wren’s conviction.”

It is easy to be moved by the crowd in most situations. In our culture it is often difficult to stand apart, to go against the grain, to buck the system. But sometimes it is the right thing to do regardless of its difficulty or risk. This doesn't require that you be a "leader," although you may be. It simply requires that you have the belief of your convictions and stand for what you believe is right.

Sometimes the crowd is wrong.