I just finished helping lead a leadership training seminar for five weeks in South Asia. It was the ninth time we have done this, now in six nations over the last five years. Each time I so enjoy meeting and encouraging many younger leaders, most usually under the age of 30. It is always tempting to think that there are tried and true leadership ‘secrets’ for success, like this post title suggests.
But actually after forty years in leadership ministry experience, I would say that one of the most important things is realizing how weak we are, and how our failures actually often teach us the most rather than our successes. I even have developed a teaching which I have given in a couple of leadership seminars called ‘My top ten leadership mistakes’. Really, I do have this teaching. And those that know me may say, ‘only ten?’ Well, it’s the top ten. There are actually many more than that.
So what are the three ways to ultimate success? Isn’t that why you have read this far? Okay here goes. They come from one of the most ingenious and yet humble television broadcasters to children in the late 20th century, a man known as Mr. Rogers. Recently a wonderful movie came out about him starring Tom Hanks called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it for the principles of his life.
Right now I’m reading a recent biography of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King titled The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. This man was for real, but his story included early years of being bullied at school, having few friends due his parents’ economic level of wealth as well as their desire to protect him. He had a major pioneering role in so many early developments of television for children, before Sesame Street ever existed.
Okay, okay, I’ll tell you now the three principles of ultimate success. They come from Mr. Rogers. Here’s his quote: There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. So simple, yet so profound. It is not about more marketing and promotion. In fact, Fred Rogers refused to syndicate his show as Sesame Street did later, denying himself big money. To him, his ministry to children (and parents) was never about money. He and his wife Joanna lived simply until his death from stomach cancer in 2002.
Being kind was not just a philosophy to Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian ordained minister, it was his life. He was kind to all, especially to kids. He took the time he needed with each person, even on set when often his production assistants were lovingly frustrated. (This is comically depicted in the movie.) Kindness was his way. Of course he was human, and at times struggled with anger probably due also to his desire for perfection. In the early years of his two sons’ lives, he struggled with the demands of success and time as many of us do.
But he was a genuine man. Authentic. And though his values seem so quaint in the 21st century, in a world of anything but kindness in our elected officials not to mention our social media battle fields, they are so desperately needed today.
I want to be kind like this to people. Do you?