I was so touched by this year's Oscar-winning movie, 'The King's Speech.' It's about King George VI, who accidentally became King of England upon the abdication of his older brother Edward VIII in 1936 on the eve of WWII.
George VI was deemed unsuitable to become British monarch because of his debilitating and humiliating stutter. It was unimaginable that this man could inspire and lead his people with such a handicap. The film chronicles George's attempt to overcome this severe and very public embarrassment. For me George VI's story is a tale that informs and inspires me in my own attempts to lead my company, Corporate Rain, from my own flawed foundation that is the heritage of being human.
Entrepreneurs are all stutterers in one form or another. It is an audacious act to create a company and I have always felt the foundational virtue of entrepreneurship is simply courage. Colin Firth, who portrays George with an admirable combination of determined fortitude and raw emotional nakedness, describes watching archival footage depicting George VI's stutter. 'You see the neck and mouth go. I found it heartbreaking, literally tear-jerking. Something really hit me watching that. I saw the vulnerability and immense courage, all wrapped up in one moment.' (Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2011).
The quality of effective entrepreneurial leadership that I most admire combines a practical modesty with a frontiersman's ability to step fearlessly into the unknown. Perhaps entrepreneurship is truly the last frontier, now that all physical frontiers have been explored and conquered.
One of the problems of my own generation–that of the baby boomers–is that we have perhaps come to think too highly of ourselves. We seem to have lost the innate humility that comes from an acknowledgment of our fallen, flawed nature, what we unapologetically used to call sin, the state of being less than God. Ideal leadership is mindful of the practical reality of human limitation and imperfection.
'The King's Speech' gives a piquant reminder of the limitations in each of us as company leaders, as well as the dignity that comes from our acceptance as imperfect human beings. Ultimately, healthy entrepreneurial leadership exists in a balanced place between narcissistic overconfidence and an immobilizing despair at our inevitable insufficiencies.
LEWIS SCHIFF | Inc. Business Owners Council
Lewis Schiff is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.