I left home and school at 18 and went off to work in the theatre. I was rebelling against what I felt was a restrictive background. Yet I was shy and not at all sure of myself.
I had a friend when I was around 14. I remember going round to his house to play and coming home in tears because he hit me. I do not remember why, just being upset and unable to hit back.
Out on my bike one day, around this time, I was pushed around by a group of boys who hung my bike up in a tree. Not really bad stuff, but it went inside.
This became wrapped up in being the youngest of three boys and the son of a dominant father. I felt pushed down at home, unable to express myself or take control.
This was important to me – the need to take control.
Forward to my second job in the theatre. I was in charge of the technical running of the stage and in charge of the temporary stage crew. This was amazing for me, I was the boss – or so I thought.
The problem was that the crew were all older than me and much more experienced. I had not had the experience to work with people so I was out of my depth. They could see this and joked around, ignoring me.
My instinct took over, what I had learned from others took over – I hit out. I hit one of the guys in the stomach, to my surprise and his. It had the immediate effect I desired, I got their attention. It did not make me a leader, though, I was diminished in their eyes, even though I made them listen to me.
Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.
I was trying to exert control over others to force them to do my will. I had no real control over myself, as I discovered over the following years of struggle with my anger.
I realised later in life that you can only control yourself. To lead others you need to be seen to be in control of yourself, then others will respect you and follow you.
I originally thought leadership was about taking control. With this group of guys I went over the top. How did I avoid getting beaten up?
In this case by the threat of violence. They were unsure of me because they did not know what I might do. They were subdued but controlled.
Ultimately the way to avoid being beaten up is to gain people’s so they choose to follow you, or at least listen to you.
Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
—Dwight D. Eisenhower