Most of us have seen the movie Braveheart by Mel Gibson, right?
Personally, I watched it exactly for 52 times, so I can even recite most of the lines while watching (that’s one of the reasons I can’t watch it Turkish dubbed version, because I can’t focus on the movie without pointing the mistakes translator made).
I had written another article about Braveheart long ago, and approached it from the movie angle. This time, I’d like to examine William Wallace as a New Age leader allegedly (according to the story) lived in Middle Age, or Dark Age of Europe, using the character as a role model for the attributes of a real leader, and comparing him with a boss, so let’s use Longshank for that.
But before we begin, I’d like to remind you this is not about nationality at all. It’s just about the human nature, and the nature of dynamics discussed here. It can be you, it can be me.
William Wallace as a Messenger
First of all, when I look at Wallace’s life as it depicted in the story, I see the attributes of a messenger leader, who came to this life with a mission to free his people from the tyranny of the English King Edward The Longshank (picture).
There are some important aspects of such people’s lives. For instance, their childhood years are full of pain, misery, loneliness, and hardships, as if God wishes to prepare them for the difficulty of their mission. And Wallace lost his entire family, and then taken away by his uncle Argyle, who was also a great warrior himself. The words he said to the little boy just the first night showed once again the most important attribute for a messenger, a warrior, and a leader: “First learn how to use this [brains], and then I’ll teach you how to use… this [sword].”
Then, again emphasizing the importance of a good education (especially through experience), and the advantage of being a multilingual person, Wallace was taken through a complex training as a warrior, and a leader. When he was finally back to his homeland as a charismatic young man, travelling all around Europe, he was fully equipped to become the real leader of his people.
However, as a common sign of messengers, he was reluctant about fighting, seemingly sick of wars, and wanted to start a family with his first and only love. If you look closely at lives of messenger personalities, you see this attitude more often than not, especially the ones who are destined to be some sort of political leader, or a war leader. But since they are destined to become whom they came to this life to be, fate leads them to the exact point where they have to follow their destiny, and complete their mission. Thus, his beloved wife was taken by the English, and was killed in front of the villagers just to prove the Empire’s authority.
This was the exact moment when spiritual energies of the universe pulled Wallace into the mission, let’s say, officially. You can see this pattern in the lives of many messengers, when fate puts them through an amazingly huge emotional trauma. In Wallace’s case, it was the girl whose flower he carried in his chest for a lifetime.
Yes, Braveheart is my number one movie of all times, and yes, it’s a wonderful saga of courage, freedom, passion, leadership, team spirit, etc. And for the ones who wished Wallace to become a high ranking official leader in his country, instead of dying, it wasn’t his mission anyway. If that happened, the war might have never ended, because probably the Scotsmen wouldn’t fight with so much passion. He had to die to become an inspiration for them, and also for the new Scottish King Bruce. (picture)
And in the end, just at their last breath, Wallace defeated Longshank in his deathbed, sending him to the arms of the Reaper with eyes open.
Well, what was it exactly that made Wallace victorious against his lifelong enemy? Passion? Strength? Intelligence? Guile?
As a matter of fact, these two enemies were almost equals when it came to such notions. But what created the difference was their attitude: Wallace was a real leader; Longshank was a “boss.”
What Are The Differences Between A Leader and A Boss?
This is a subject I’ve been thinking since the first leadership book I’ve translated, written by one of the most distinguished and prominent leadership experts all around the world, John C. Maxwell, titled Developing The Leader Within (give picture for two books). Then I’ve translated more books by John C. Maxwell (give link and picture) (for a while I was like unofficial Maxwell translator in Turkey), and gave more thoughts about the subject.
However, I’d like to draw on what Mark Sanborn, another good expert on the subject, writes on his blog about the differences between a leader and a manager (give link) (with my term here, boss), because it provides a perfect framework that I can work with as to the purpose of this article, and also he perfectly summarizes it as so closely paralleled to what I’m trying to convey here. (I hope you don’t get mad at me for I draw from your article, Mark.)
Employees vs. Followers
First of all, “managers have employees; leaders win followers” says Sanborn.
Even from the words themselves, the difference is perfectly clear. A boss is an employer, and of course he has employees to command as he wishes, just as Longshank used them against the Scots, even killing his own “employees” mercilessly just to get to Wallace, commanding them from a safe place at the back of the battleground. In contrary, Wallace was always at frontlines, leading his followers (literally, you can only lead the followers, after all) to the battle ahead, with his sword in hand.
Just notice that even Longshank’s son doesn’t love him. Even if the guy is shown as incapable of loving, actually it’s not because of his EQ, but because of his father’s personality. Being a king – or a boss – is much more important to Longshank than even being a father first. People don’t love such a person, but fear him only.
Resulted effect: The English soldiers were fighting reluctant, just following orders, and the Scots were fighting with passion born of love they had for their leader. Victory for Scots was inevitable, even with the odds.
Reaction vs. Change
Sanborn says: “Managers react to change; leaders create change.”
Again, returning the story of Braveheart, remember that Longshank had no intention to make any changes about his rule over Scots. He was too confident of himself, and he didn’t even see what is coming from Wallace’s hand. The funny thing about this, though, is that the fact Wallace had no intention to fight against him in the first place, either. However, tyranny and merciless actions – almost always – force leaders to do something, even if they don’t want it originally.
This is another important difference between a leader and a boss. Boss may have not humanistic values, because due to the nature of his style of rule, he doesn’t have to. At the other hand, since – again even literally – a leader leads his followers, he has to rise from humanistic values. Or again in Sanborn’s terms: “Managers exercise power over people; leaders develop power with people.”
Resulted effect: So, what happens in the story is a perfect combination of these two principles. Wallace sees a necessity of change for the good of his crushed people, and he starts a change that will gain power and influence among his people. At the other hand, since Longshank is shortsighted due to the fact he is overconfident of his power, he only realized the extent of new rebellion when it was already too late.
Good Ideas vs. Implementation
Sanborn: “Managers have good ideas; leaders implement them.”
When I look at this fact, I remember a scene from the movie. With his advisors in a meeting, trying to figure out how to suppress the rebellion in Scottish lands, Longshank comes with an idea, reviving an old tradition of “first night.” When one of the advisors says “It’s a perfect idea,” Longshank asks coldly: “Is it?” meaning “What else would you expect from me, you jerk?”
In contrary, Wallace doesn’t only apply his own ideas (whereas he has many, because he is very wise and smart), but also the ones that come from his aides.
Resulted effect: Well, it’s something we call as “synergy” (give link) in modern age, which creates a multiplying power union among the team, and it’s really hard to overpower a team that works with synergy.
Communication vs. Persuasion
With Sanborn’s words: “Managers communicate; leaders persuade.”
Well, persuade to what? Persuasion means to make someone feel what you feel, bringing the other person in line with your thinking.
Remember the scene of first great and surprise victory against the English, who comes to deliver the new terms of Longshank to the Scottish nobles. Just remember the speech Wallace gives before the clash. Somebody among the crowd claims “Wallace is seven feet tall.” And Wallace responds: “Yeah, I’ve heard. And if he were here, he would smite the English with lightning bolts from his eyes, and fireballs from his ass!”
Try to see what he is exactly conveying here: “I’m just an ordinary human being as you all are. My difference is my faith. You can have faith in yourself, in your cause, and in freedom, too.”
Because, a leader persuades his followers in a way that his dream becomes their dream. In Sanborn’s words: “Managers are focused; leaders create shared focus.”
And then the rest is easy: Just provoke the enemy to a point they can’t think clearly, pushing them to a point that they will only react.
Resulted as exampled perfectly by the English commander communicating: “Send the horses. Full attack!” To the hidden wooden lances of the Scots!
Directives vs. Teamwork
“Managers direct groups; leaders create teams,” writes Sanborn.
Again, with an example from the first battle, remember how Wallace creates teams with other nobles in the battleground. He sends the horses away, seemingly fleeing, but actually to flank the enemy, just with a maneuver to lure the enemy to the lances the Scots prepared.
Resulted effect: The English commander sends the troops in traditional sequence; archers, and horses. Then he is left with only the infantry in hand. (Oh, shit! What the…?)
Hero vs. Heroes
“Managers try to be heroes; leaders make heroes of everyone around them.”
Longshank tried to prove he was the best ruler ever; in contrary, Wallace was only trying to create an atmosphere of fellowship. Longshank said “I’m the boss!” Wallace said “Let’s do it!”
This is also connected with another principle Sanborn mentions in his writing: “Managers take credit; leaders take responsibility.”
Whatever happened in politics, or in battlefields, Longshank was always proud of himself, shutting everyone out even when he was warned by his advisors. And also, when something went wrong, he would blame all the others. At the other hand, Wallace always knew the importance of self-confidence of his aides, and he trusted them. Therefore, even when he was captured by the enemy in the end, he took his responsibility, and didn’t expect any help from his followers, with a perfectly realistic attitude.
Resulted effect: In the end, while sending Longshank to the other world with eyes open, Wallace even gained the sympathy of Longshank’s people.
This is what a real leader does. This is the way how a real leader acts.
See, what makes the real difference in our example story wasn’t Wallace’s strength, or his talent about using a sword, but his wisdom as a leader.
I’d like just to make two additions to what Sanborn writes his short, but highly striking article. First, when boss minded people are under someone else’s command, they unquestioningly obey. This is what we call “to be more royalist than the king” in Turkish. But a leader can even go against his authority when needed for the common good.
And secondly, I’d like to quote from a source I can’t remember now, which shows perhaps the biggest difference of all:
“When a storm explodes: An optimist expects it to calm down; a pessimist curses his bad luck; but a leader sails ahead!”
Because, a leader is a warrior!