No marching band, no stripes

kerrygrace-2014 Challenge Leave a Comment

I distinctly remember a visit from the Governor General to my primary school in the early 1980s.  According to Wikipedia this must have been Sir Ninian Martin Stephen who, according to my recent reading (on Wikipedia) appears to be a rightly honorable Sir.

But my childhood memories of this leader are quite different.  To me he was the man who hogged the stage while I was waiting for the Governor General to speak.  You see, at the tender age of 8 or 9 I really had little idea what or who a Governor General was.  It would certainly have nothing to do with what he said, in my thinking he would most certainly be  wearing some sort of special costume to prove he was a leader, probably with a lot of medals.

As I sat quietly in the assembly hall listening to the guy out the front I couldn’t work out why the man dressed importantly in a military outfit with all of the appropriate medals looking very important wasn’t coming up to the stage.  In fact, he never did speak to us.  So the younger me decided the the Governor General was indeed quite a rude man, fancy standing at the door just looking at the children sending his minder up to the stage to speak on his behalf.  What was becoming of dignitaries these days I wondered.

So incensed was my young self that I didn’t even listen to what the man had to say, pity because that was the Governor General onstage and the man at the door was – I dunno?  A minder?

I don’t know at which point I found out the truth of the story, quite possibly not long after I reported about it in a Grade 2 story journal.  However, when you really think about it it’s not such a far flung theory.

Remember how you need to earn your stripes?  That’s what we think leaders need to do, right?

But the problem is the stripes are often invisible.

Not only that, often there is no marching band, no cavalcade, no streamers and sadly, no costumer or even measly badge which states ‘LEADER’.

And let’s face it, in Australia if there was we probably wouldn’t wear it anyway because we’d be too embarrassed and worried about others cutting us down to size.

I thought about the relevance of this childhood memory to today and realise how easy it is to cast an opinion about what or who someone is (or who they aren’t).  Far too many times outstanding community leaders are overlooked for louder, faster, more dynamic, more experienced community members who may also be leaders – but perhaps not the right leader for the time or task at hand.

The whole story reminds me that leaders come in many packages, and the package will not always be brightly and clearly packaged.  I realise that it’s not only in the political realm that we have opportunity to choose our leaders and since the stripes usually aren’t visible we need to form another criteria to help us to decide who to follow, how and when.

I’d love to know what qualities draw you to a leader and how you go about identifying someone in that role…

And in the meantime I’ve been making up for lost time and learning about the incredible life that Sir Ninian Stephen has led.  Currently 91 years of age he has contributed to a wealth of noble causes.  Sir Stephen, I’m very sorry that I didn’t listen that day but I can assure you I’m now making up for lost time as I learn from your life experiences and follow in your footsteps of bringing social justice to the planet starting with my patch here in Australia.  I guess something you said must have sunk in, my thanks to you.
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