M3 Stories and Creative Leadership



M3Stories and Creative Leadership


Thereare numerous discussions on what qualities define a leader. In thebook The Leadership Moment, Useem (1998) illustrates how good leadersrespond to crisis and opportunities to demonstrate their leadershipskills. The book gives stories of some of the leaders who were facedwith crisis but used the crisis as an opportunity to shine. Forexample, in chapter 1 of the book, the author gives a story of RoyVagelos, led a team of scientists discovered the black fly which wasresponsible for river blindness in West Africa in the 1980. Riverblindness was a crisis that had a huge impact on the health of thesociety as well as economic development. In his laboratory at Merck,he exhibited leadership in dealing with a crisis that threatened thewhole society. According to Vagelos, “you’ve got to take aleadership position and make deception” especially in times ofcrisis. Another interesting story of leadership, crisis andopportunities in the book is the story of Wagner Dodge. Dodge wasfaced by a decisive moment of crisis and needed to make a decision ofa lifetime to save the bank of Mann Gulch from a wild fire. Herealized that his fire jumpers will be overwhelmed by the flames,especially due to the wind and the dry vegetation. His decision toset a fire and step on the area cleared by the small fire savedhimself from the ranging flames behind them. However, his men ignoredhim or did not understand his motivation and were consumed by theflames (Useem, 1998). This demonstrates that when faced with acrisis, a leader should not panic, but rather take it as anopportunity to be creative.

Thestories in The Leadership Moment introduce an important concept increative leadership. Creative leaders do not panic during crisis.Rather they use the crisis as an opportunity to exhibit creativityand performance. For example, in the Dodge story, he did not panicand therefore was able to escape the fire. On the other hand, as aresult of panic the other firefighters were unable to thinkcreatively or process information correctly. In Vagelos story, it isclear that leadership is not about power and resources but alsoservice to the society. He exploited the crisis in West Africa toshow how creative leaders can balance society service andorganizational success.

Inthe “leadership in times of crisis” by Caldwell, the role of aleader in influencing his followers and standing for what is right isemphasized. The story is basically about the leadership lessons thatcan be learned from Lincoln, a leader who is remember to have stoodfor what is right when the United States was faced with one of themost important crisis in history, the civil war. When faced withcrisis, a leader has a perfect opportunity to create trusts andrespect. For example, during the war, Lincoln found time to visit thetroops, listening to them in order to understand the challenges theyfaced (Caldwel, 2009).

Thereare several real life examples where individuals have show leadershipqualities during crisis. A good example is when the United Stateswas faced with the threat of terrorism after September 11 attack.This was the most trying times in the United States modern history.Despite the crisis that faced the country, the leaders, led byPresident Bush exhibited leadership qualities. Despite the challengesthat had faced the United States as a result of sending troopsoutside its territories in the second half of the 20thcentury, President Bush led the United States to war againstterrorism in Middle East. What I find most interesting about thereading is the qualities of Lincoln as leader. He spent little timeat White House and had time to visit the soldiers.


Basedon the readings, the purpose of leadership is to bring about changeto the society or people they lead. Great leaders are remembered forthe changes they brought about during their tenure. However, oneneeds not to occupy huge political and social position in order toinfluence change. In the documentary, Amandla, the most importantleadership lesson is that anyone can lead and bring change and socialtransformation through his or her daily routine. The documentaryexhibits how musicians in South Africa used music to lead the waragainst apartheid and discrimination in South Africa (Hirsch, 2002).A song has the ability to touch people’s emotions. Therefore,telling a story using a song reaches more people and influenceindividual and social actions. As a result, all societies in theworld have freedom songs that were used in particular historicalcontexts.

Themost quoted words from SuuKyi are “it is not power that corrupts, it is fear”. Suu Kyi’sarguments in his speech is that leaders should be courageous andfearless of they have to prosper (SuuKyi, 1990).This is the same theme adopted by Clinton in his speeches. In thefight against violation of human rights and social change toaccommodate diversity, fear is not an option. An individual shouldnot fear losing friends and relatives, rejection by the society,failure or imprisonment in the quest for what is right. According toClinton, to achieve our goals, especially in the fight from humanrights, one should have the “willingnessto see stark differences in belief as a reason to begin theconversation, not to avoid it” (Clinton, 2011).

Therole of freedom songs and how music can influence social, politicaland legal revolutions is the most interesting thing in observed fromthe readings. It is not only in South Africa where music has beenused to influence change. For example, in the United States, thereare protest songs by civil rights activists and labor movements.


Caldwel,W. B. (2009). Leadershipin a time of crisis.Lincoln Lecture series. Universty of Saint Mary.

Clinton,H. (2011). Remarksin Recognition of International Human Rights Day,http://www.state.gov/secretary/20092013clinton/rm/2011/12/178368.htm

Hirsch,L. (2002). Amandla!:A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony,Movie.

SuuKyi, A. S. (1990). Freedomfrom Fear speech,http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Burma/FreedomFromFearSpeech.html

Tittemore,J. A. (2003). Leadershipat all Levels.Canada: Boskwa Publishing.

Useem,M. (1998). Theleadership moment: nine true stories of triumph and disaster andtheir lessons for us all,New York: Times Business.