The Cost of Leadership

19 05 2012

There’s a common maxim that goes something like this: “The world is run by tired men.”  This proverb obviously includes the fatiguing and never-ending work of women as well, especially mothers.

In business, it is well known that if you want something done, ask a busy man.  The reason being, the busy man has learned the value of time and efficient effort. He can therefore carve out time for additional tasks.

Leadership costs much.  In time.  In emotion.  In soul.  In will.  In body.  The effective leader is one who is constantly improving, staying sharp and crisp, honing his skills and influence.  This cost is beautifully embodied in this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

The Ladder of St. Augustine

Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,

That of our vices we can frame

A ladder, if we will but tread

Beneath our feet each deed of shame!

 

All common things, each day’s events,

That with the hour begin and end,

Our pleasures and our discontents,

Are rounds by which we may ascend.

 

The low desire, the base design,

That makes another’s virtues less;

The revel of the ruddy wine,

And all occasions of excess;

 

The longing for ignoble things;

The strife for triumph more than truth;

The hardening of the heart, that brings

Irreverence for the dreams of youth;

 

All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,

That have their root in thoughts of ill;

Whatever hinders or impedes

The action of the nobler will; —

 

All these must first be trampled down

Beneath our feet, if we would gain

In the bright fields of fair renown

The right of eminent domain.

 

We have not wings, we cannot soar;

But we have feet to scale and climb

By slow degrees, by more and more,

The cloudy summits of our time.

 

The mighty pyramids of stone

That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,

When nearer seen, and better known,

Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

 

The distant mountains, that uprear

Their solid bastions to the skies,

Are crossed by pathways, that appear

As we to higher levels rise.

 

The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not attained by sudden flight,

But they, while their companions slept,

Were toiling upward in the night.

 

Standing on what too long we bore

With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,

We may discern — unseen before —

A path to higher destinies,

 

Nor doom the irrevocable Past

As wholly wasted, wholly vain,

If, rising on its wrecks, at last

To something nobler we attain.

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