The Silver Lining Playbook: Ten Secrets to Successful Leadership
Part 8 of 10: The Difference in Being Different
Following the herd may be the best way to find a good restaurant in a strange town, but otherwise leads to mediocrity. The herd mentality may be the best way to get elected, but is a poor way to lead. One of the primary obstacles to successful leadership is fear of innovation and rejection for being different. But if what we have now isn't working and the herd has been lulled into complacency to the point of disconnection, then it's time to raise up an innovator who takes a different view, even if he is an optimistic malcontent.
I'm about as different a Savannahian as you're ever gonna meet: half of my family were Irish Catholics who came to Savannah in the 1840's; the other half were German, Russian, and Polish Jews who came to town at the turn of the last century. I grew up in both traditions, and-- for the sake of peace-- celebrated both in finding a common ground rather than being forced to choose between them. My Jewish friends did not understand why we had a Christmas tree; my Catholic pals didn't understand why I went to Mickve Israel.
Now, as if this wasn't enough to set me apart, add this to the mix: My father was legal counsel to Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King and Andrew Young. He was among that rare first generation of white Southern lawyers to rally to the civil rights movement at its inception. Nobody approved of what my father did-- not even the courts he served-- excepting the poor black families that he helped. As a result, my father had a long list of enemies who, when they couldn't persuade him to cease and desist, had him disbarred from the practice of law and run out of town.
Before I was seventeen years old, we had lived in three different Georgia towns where I went to five different schools. I never learned a damn thing from my teachers; the challenge was making friends only to lose them and start all over again.
I started working in my father's law firm during high school and college with the intention of following in his footsteps. I went to law school, but did not practice law. In my senior year I began writing a book that became an international best seller and the subject of a major motion picture, and I never went back to the law. But during my apprenticeship, my father put me in the company of some of the most remarkable people of our time, from statesmen to martyrs to world leaders of every kind, and I got a far better education from dad than from all the schools I went to combined.
In the process, I have developed a point of view that has been rounded into innovative shape by opinions that are set in direct opposition one from another. If nothing else, I have learned to see both sides of every proposition, as taught in every law school. And, like the scales of my zodiac sign, I walk through this life seeking Balance and Composure.
I am, by profession, a writer and filmmaker, neither of which exists without Innovation.
My fellow Savannahians: I'm just about as Different a mayoral candidate as you're ever gonna find. And when it comes to Innovation, I begin my day trying to figure out new ways to get out of bed in the morning and spend the rest of my day seeking new solutions for old situations. I'm pretty good at managing my life and helping those I encounter. And I'd like to take a shot at helping the rest of the town find the middle path toward Balance and Composure.