Have you ever seen the movie Gladiator? This is really a silly question-who hasn't? For me, I had just graduated high school when it was released, and the blood-drenched Coliseum floor left a mark on my soul. My life suddenly was inspired by violence, heroism, and greatness; and it allowed me to define my masculinity within these realms. What young man does not fantasize about standing victorious on the arena floor over your slain opponent, the sun drying blood splatter upon your skin, and raising your sword overhead while the masses roar? We all want to be a champion.
The more times I have watched Gladiator over the years my thoughts are less entertained by the carnage and more intrigued by the underlying themes and the overall message of the narrative. The story has become less about his ability kill and more about his ability to lead. Many kill. Anyone can extinguish a life. Our history books are filled with leaders that have left a wake of decimation and death behind them. For Maximus, this was not his fate. He learned a lesson that went far beyond the power of the sword; he embraced the power of influence. The pivotal moment in the story is when Proximo pulls Maximus aside and says this, “Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.” In his pursuit of revenge he embraced this philosophy and sought to win the crowd.
I do not believe that quality leadership is attained through consensus and vote. It is also not achieved through the relentless pounding of an iron fist. One may be feared but neither are respected. Effective leadership is defined by the influence one attains. Maximus could have killed and destroyed until he had no one else left to face. However, he could not complete his objective by death alone. His future was empty and hopeless, and Proximo breathed life back into it with this lesson. The power that this can create is proven when Commodus gave the thumbs down for Maximus to kill, and Maximus looked him in the eyes and defied him. In that moment his power became greater than that of the Emperor’s, and the crowd praised him for it.
My challenge to you is to win those you know by winning their hearts. This begs the question, how are you doing at winning people? There is no way to win people without engaging in relationship. We run into the same people in the same places. Whether they are the one in the cube next to us, the one that sleeps beside us, or the one that volunteers with us, are you winning in those relationships? You must know who they are at more than just at a surface level. Do you know their struggles? Do you know their needs? Do you know their faults? If so, are you doing something about it?
If you answered no to any of these questions, you are not their champion. We all must develop our skills at engaging people, caring for them, and fighting for them. The result is that they will find success and a true friend; and as a byproduct we will never have to enter an arena, a fight, or a conference room alone. One day we too will have the opportunity to defy the Emperor. The potential results lie somewhere between being praised as a hero and being escorted out by HR. The key differentiator in the outcome will be our level of influence. Like Maximus, let us fight like champions. Let us live as heroes!
*Edited by Dave Snyder #doaksnyder