By Tino Mantella
TLG President & CEO
“I know the whole world is watching, and I wish the world could see what I see. Sometimes, you have to go up really high up to understand how small you really are. I’m going home now.”
These are the words of Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian daredevil skydiver who recently broke the altitude record for a human free fall. He said this as he left his capsule and plummeted down to earth at an incredible speed. Baumgartner’s words strongly resonated with me given today’s global and cultural struggles. You can learn more about him in this story by Vanity Fair. This article is not about him though, it’s about us.
Great leaders generally project confidence, which is a good thing. Yet, when they think too much of themselves and forget how small of a cog in the machine they really are, it generally has a negative impact. Humility, empathy, and emotional mastery can take a back seat to ego and power. In the workplace, authoritarianism is waning. Yet, I see many of the same mistakes happening over and over again.
50 years ago, the Watergate Scandal took center stage. Here you had a group of leaders who believed they could do pretty much anything because of their status and perceived powers. We know how that all ended up – with 48 government officials found guilty and a sitting President (Nixon) resigning.
History Repeats Itself
We often say, “that’s the last time.” Thousands gathered on the shores of Normandy to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Roughly two dozen World War II veterans were honored at the ceremony. We had hoped that World War II would be the war to end all wars (much like we thought with World War I) – the last time one country, unprovoked, would invade another. Here we are 77 years later, and Russian has invaded Ukraine without cause. The omnipresent power of one man has proven us wrong again.
In 2012, Sandy Hook was to be the last mass shooting. Ten years later, there were more than a dozen people killed and more than 70 injured in 13 mass shootings, all in one weekend! Yes, mental health is a factor, but in the case of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas – giving a semi-automatic rifle to an 18-year-old married the power of the gun with that of an individual in a destructive, unacceptable way.
Then there is our government. Why can’t they act? Are those in the Senate and Congress so full of themselves that they can’t reach across the aisle to make common sense decisions? These are not giants of our society; they are people like you and me! We have graced them with power by our vote. Yet, most of them want to keep that power, so they often make decisions based on their tribe and not in the best interest of the people who elected them. It’s what will keep them in power.
My overriding point here is that we are only on this earth for a short time. Individually we are very small, but collectively, we can do great things. Perhaps if we were looking down to the earth from a higher point, our frame of reference would change, and we could see ourselves and our world through a different lens.