High above Manhattan the whirl of Donald Trump's helicopter blended with his voice as he told the four surviving contestants on The Apprentice about what lies ahead.
Only one can win and be initiated into his version of the good life, which includes power, prestige and unlimited wealth.
The rest? Well they'll be fired.
This is the basic survival of the fittest model that is the pop culture standard for show after show from The Biggest Loser to The Bachelor and Survivor. We put ourselves in their places and want to see ourselves as the one, the best and the brightest, who will wear the crown and get the applause.
Only one can win and the rest, shuttled off the island of success, go back to dreary jobs and bleak lives. Life, to be beautiful, means possessions, status and vast recognition. And of course, if there are winners, there must be losers.
The fictional folk hero made famous by Tom Hanks. Was he a slow learner or did he know something that Donald Trump has yet to learn? With his Zen-like qualities, Gump followed the forces of synchronicity and his message is still being heard around the world today.
Power and success are available to all of us if we trust the intelligence of our whole self, not just relying only on our rational mind, but understanding that relatedness is a key organizing principle of life.
I watched this play out in an entrepreneurial start-up where Mike had "The Donald" model of leadership in his back pocket. I wondered if he could learn a thing or two from the Gump leadership philosophy.
Mike had climbed the ladder of success by stepping on others' toes and fingers on his rise to power. Now, he was at a crossroads. His newest venture had a lot of winners on the team. Boundless energy and sharp thinking, had them on the cutting edge of the next new thing and they were ready to clobber the competition.
Except they would have to pivot to win, and it wasn't clear if Mike would be able to change his direction.
Led by Roberta, a strong-willed and talented woman, there was a red flag waving fiercely from Human Resources. Mike played favorites and HR informed him that half the team was ready to bolt.
I facilitated the offsite that began on a day as gray as Mike's mood. As soon as the room was quiet Mike claimed his positional power. He reminded them he was the head of the company and the brilliant ideas they were getting ready to unleash on the world were really all his.
He would listen to their concerns, after all he's really a good, caring guy. However, at the end of the day if they did not like his leadership style they could 'vote with their feet' as he pointed to the door.
No one spoke up and the day was a waste of time. The team dinner was canceled and I suggested that Mike and I go find a quiet place and reassess the mess to see what we could salvage for the completion of the meeting the next day.
Synchronicity was at work when we were placed next to a table of bitingly angry staff making mincemeat out of their bully boss:
"If only he would listen."
"He has all the answers, or so he thinks."
"What a braggart who takes over the main stage all the time."
"If only he were real."
I know Mike was paying attention and I was able to ask him to think about how he could move from his win/lose position and really hear the concerns of his staff. He stayed on the defensive.
Then fate intervened, again.
At 3:00 a.m. I was jarred out of sleep by the hotel phone. Mike apologized for waking me and he sounded, well, different. A dream made him wake up and he was actually asking (for the first time) for some help in how the dream and the team meeting connected. In the dream his mother, a cold, demanding person was replaced with Roberta.
His anger was evident as he said "Good God, they are one and the same person. I just hate women who think they know more than I do. I need to cut them down to size."
Mike was on to something vital. Vital for all of us and rarely explored at work.
On that last day of the meeting, Mike did pivot. He did not disclose what happened at dinner, nor about his dream. However, he did show some vulnerability when he talked about the need for all of them to clear the past to free the future. He made a commitment to release old patterns of working together and figure out better communication methods.
There were no easy answers, more an invitation to explore uncharted territory of what really matters at work. The climate of the team was lifted from the heaviness of constant storms to brighter days ahead.
Turns out Forrest Gump is pointing us in the right direction--sharing, caring, doing right for others, changing outdated patterns--infusing us with personal power that outlasts titles and keeps a light shining on our contributions, often well beyond our lives.