A Leader! A Leader! My Kingdom for a Czech Leader!

19/06/2011
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“A leader is a dealer in hope.” Napoleon Bonaparte might have said this phrase three centuries later than the moment when the mighty Shakespeare wrote his unforgettable historical tragedy Richard III in 1594. Yet, the two visionaries had something in common. They acknowledged the need for hope as an essential tool for any human guide.

When one is looking at what has been going on in the Czech politics for the last few months, stomachs churn with revolt and the mind refuses to accept the sheer reality that the Czech political sphere is not only burring the hope brought over by the parliamentary elections in May 2010 – the Czech political sphere is doing its best to bury the hope for a better future of a whole nation.

Hunger to be the second 

In my effort to bring new trends in media relations to the Czech market, I am often confronted with the question: “Who else does that here? No one? Well, why don’t you come back when a few other companies do that and then we can talk about it?” This approach is most visible in social media communication. “Let the others do it first and then we can do it. No rush. Why should I have to be the first?

While I understand and respect the conservative approach of the Czech market – an approach that is probably responsible for the economic stability of this market – I can’t hide the utter astonishment that I feel each time I receive this feedback. It’s as if we were looking at the glass from two totally different points of view: one that sees the troubles and challenges and fears, and the other that sees the opportunities hidden in being the first. It feels bitter, to be honest. What’s wrong with being the first? What’s wrong with doing things and learning and gaining irreplaceable competitive advantages out of the pure courage of having dared to do things differently? What’s wrong with being a leader?

Dad does it, so you’ll do it too

Tired of such questions, I leave the business battlefield to go for a glass of wine with my Czech women friends. I indulge in social conversations that have nothing to do with business – and it’s refreshing. They all have small babies and we most often talk about what’s new in terms of baby food and sport and education. When it comes to their relationships, my friends have words of praise for their male partners, but often they also have issues and complaints that they vent in the safety of female complicity. My surprise comes not from the complaints – if we women were gifted with angels in man suits, we would still complain the wings are too big for the shirts and need extra-ironing. My surprise comes from the fact that my female friends, even though often disappointed and exasperated with their partners’ behaviors, they raise their sons in the same line of thinking. I have seen very few women who put an accent on the emotional balance of their sons and let them cry if they feel like, as opposed to “boys don’t cry.” I have met very few women willing to invest time to explain the importance of image and partnership to their sons. I have met such few women willing to raise their sons differently than their fathers. As if the fear of having children that are different would paralyze my female friends, they step on the familiar path and raise boys that will give the same headaches to their daughters-in-law as their husbands are giving them now. The few exceptions are the more to be cherished and publicly praised.

Not me. I’ll be punished for it. 

The two examples have one element in common – the fear of being different, of being the first. I’m tired of this sentence, but 21 years after the fall of communism in the Czech Republic, many people are still afraid they could be punished for standing out from the crowd. “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership,” said John Kenneth Galbraith. So, I’m wondering: do we have leaders today in the Czech Republic? Do we want to have leaders in the Czech Republic? Or are we too afraid of those who’ll stir the waters and might show us that things can be done differently, better, with more care and more connection between our minds and our hearts?

Back to business

To go back to the issue of hope, being positive is essential in the Czech business environment. Let me give you a taste of that. How could services in Czech hotels, restaurants and public transport look like if a few managers dared to stand up and say: we respect our clients and we treat them as we’d like to be treated? How could the political scene look like if more politicians would dare to stand up and spend their time on ruling the country and not on governmental intrigues? How could the Czech media scene look like if more journalists stood up and said: enough with media managers who get catapulted in top positions God knows how, we want to be properly trained and write meaningful stories for our public? How could the Czech business scene look like if more managers would say: we care about our image and we take the image of our company personally because we want to make a difference? How could the Czech Republic run at full speed and release its tremendous potential if all those people united their voices to show the way ahead for this country?

Just sit down for a minute with that illusion. And then ask yourself: why not standing up and daring to be different right now?

THIS TEXT HAS FIRST BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE COLUMN MEDIAPOWER BY LEADERS MAGAZINE ON JUNE 19, 2011 http://www.leadersmagazine.cz/2011/06/19/a-leader-a-leader-my-kingdom-for-a-czech-leader/#.UtOHGLR7Y1I

I focus on strategic communications, emotional and systemic intelligence and personal and organization leadership. I help leaders and future leaders to develop their strategic communication skills, to build reputable personal brands and to boost their team and organizational leadership. I support individuals, teams and organizations through advisory, training, coaching and mentoring services.

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