You may have read about it before. I just come across it this week on a newspaper. It is an anonymous gravestone in Westminster Abbey in London.
“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits
I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older…I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt,
I settled for changing my family…those close to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lie on my deathbed, I realise: If I had only changed myself first, then by example, I might have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would have been able to better my country. And, who knows, I may have even changed the world.”
It was so beautifully written. To me, this means changing self in order to lead. By ‘changing self’, I do not mean ‘becoming a different person’. I mean ‘becoming a better version of myself’. And in order to do it, we need to be conscious about ourselves. We need to know ourselves better e.g. what I am good at, what motivates me. When I read the gravestone words, I think of what leadership is (my own definition of leadership)
I was chatting with a few top country-level commercial leaders in China the other day. We talked about how difficult (if not impossible) it is to change company culture and engage the rather restless workforce in China. We said the leaders got to articulate their ideas well in order to influence. But more than that, it is about how they behave and role model. It is really like what the words on the gravestone are about.
After all, it is more ‘useful’ to focus our attention on things we can change rather than things we cannot.