The Perils of ‘Heroic Leadership’ #32

Warwick Fairfax

August 18, 2020

Heroic leaders like Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln get movies made about them — just like superheroes such as Batman and Captain America. But the rousing triumphs that echo through history, or comic books, aren’t the whole story — or even sometimes the best story. Quietness, patience and humility are key qualities of success and significance even for great leaders.

Highlights

  • The heroic leadership missteps of Warwick’s personal journey (3:55)
  • How heroic leadership was celebrated in the Fairfax family (4:40)
  • Why Fairfax Media cried out in many ways to be saved by a heroic leader (5:57)
  • The failure of heroic leadership in Warwick’s takeover of the family media business (7:08)
  • Why heroic leadership is so revered (9:39)
  • How heroic leader George Washington also led quietly (11:46)
  • How heroic leader Abraham Lincoln also led quietly (13:52)
  • The key elements of quiet leadership (14:41)
  • Why humility is essential to leading quietly (16:40)
  • How Warwick’s failed takeover bid of Fairfax Media may have gone differently had he practiced quiet leadership (18:45)
  • How Crucible Leadership has been built through the principles of leading quietly (26:58)
  • How patience helps you pursue your vision (34:17)
  • Final thoughts from Warwick about quiet leadership vs. heroic leadership (36:42)

Transcript

Gary S:
Welcome everybody to this episode of Beyond the Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger, the cohost of the podcast and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. And we’re thrilled to have you with us here on a podcast that is about facing those crucible moments in our lives. And we define crucible moments here at Crucible Leadership, we define those as experiences that are failures, setbacks, tragedies, traumas. Maybe they’re things that you caused, maybe they’re things that happen to you, but all of them have in common this thing that you probably know all too well, and that is they’re painful.

Gary S:
They can feel like they knock the wind out of your sails. They can feel like they have changed the trajectory of your life. And the reason that we talk about them here is so that we can learn lessons from them, and so that we can apply those lessons as we move on and move, as the title of the show says, beyond our crucibles. Many times when we have these conversations, we do this with a guest. So there’s three of us; there’s me, there’s a guest and there is the founder of Crucible Leadership and the host of the show, Warwick Fairfax.

Gary S:
This time though, we’re on one of those episodes where it’s just Warwick and I, and really me picking Warwick’s brain to talk about certain principles about Crucible Leadership. About overcoming your crucibles, that you can apply to your lives as you move forward. And today’s episode is going to be particularly interesting, I think, because we’re going to dive deeply again into Warwick’s personal story. So as we do that, let me welcome you in Warwick. And this is going to be a good conversation for me for sure but then again, I don’t have to relive some of the pain that you have to relive as you go through it.

Warwick F:
Yeah, well said, Gary. No, I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s a fascinating topic we’re going to be talking about today.

Gary S:
And the topic is an organizing construct, listener. The topic is Leading Quietly: Humility as a Pillar of Success. And what we talk about here in Crucible Leadership, significance. And by leading quietly, we mean not necessarily just as an organizing way of looking at this, we don’t mean not leading arrogantly. It’s not humility opposite arrogance, so much as humility, as opposed to leading “heroically.” We’re going to talk a little bit about this idea of heroic leadership. And there are times, many times, that humble leadership, quiet leadership that isn’t heroic leadership is the way to go. And Warwick, as listeners will know, you’ve experienced that in your life. That heroic leadership, isn’t always the best way to go.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And really where the idea for this particular podcast came about is in the upcoming weeks we’re going to have a conversation with Professor Joseph Badaracco, really on reflection. And he’s written a book on that, but a book that he’s known for really came out quite a few years ago, almost 20 years ago. 2001 thereabouts, Leading Quietly. And we just spend a few minutes on the podcast on that, but that concept of quiet leadership and how that’s different than heroic leadership, it made me think a lot because I grew up with the heroic leadership model. That’s something that I tried to live by much to my cost.

Warwick F:
So we only touched on it with Professor Badaracco, but I think both Gary and I thought let’s talk a bit more about what quiet leadership is, at least from my perspective, from Crucible Leadership’s perspective and how that’s different than heroic leadership. So that’s where it came and why it’s fascinating. At least to me, a fascinating subject to talk about.

Gary S:
And when you say, Warwick, that you grew up in heroic leadership circumstances, one of the things I think that’s fascinating about your story is that you grew up in that situation on two fronts. There’s the front of the legacy that was there in the family, the founding of Fairfax Media by your great-great-grandfather. And then how you grew up and the family’s perceptions, the family’s vision for you and your life. Can you unpack that for listeners? How the idea of “heroic leadership,” permeated your life for most of your life, prior to your crucible experience?

Warwick F:
Yeah, I just grew up with that mindset. My dad just loved history and he would read a lot of books about history. And so since he was an Anglophile, really loved England, even though we’d lived in Australia for generations. Just the whole Winston Churchill, Lord Horatio Nelson, Admiral Nelson of battle of Trafalgar fame in the early 1800s, Duke of Wellington, again, similar period Napoleonic wars. It was this idea and back then, it’s a lot of years ago, is typically great men doing great deeds. There was this concept of heroic leadership.

Warwick F:
In fact, I remember when I was very small, I was six, he read to me a book, I think written in the 1800s by Charles Kingsley called The Heroes. And it was all about these classic Greek mythical heroes, Jason and the Argonauts, Perseus, Theseus, people doing incredible heroic feats. And so, as I was growing up, there was the narrative from my parents that I was to be the white knight, the hero, the crusader that would come in and save the day. The backstory, which I’ve talked a little bit about on other podcasts, is there was friction in the family going back decades as there often is in large family media businesses.

Warwick F:
As listeners will know, I grew up in this 150 year old large family media business that had the equivalent in Australia of New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal. Had TV, radio stations, magazines, a massive company, but for a variety of reasons, there was friction going back decades with my dad and some other relatives. And in 1976, some of those relatives actually had enough shares to throw my father out as chairman. One could debate whether that was the right or wrong move. Obviously I was 15 at the time I was his son, and naturally didn’t think it was such a good idea, but maybe there’s another side.

Warwick F:
So once he was thrown out in 1976, my parents saw me as the next generation, the person that could bring the company back to the ideals of the founder. I don’t know that it was consciously seeking revenge, I wasn’t consciously thinking about that, but it amped up the whole heroic leadership mantra, myth perhaps. So then, as listeners will know, did my undergrad degree at Oxford, worked on Wall Street, then went to Harvard Business School, come back and in 1987, I launched this $2.25 billion takeover in Australia. And it was the heroic leadership model and things went wrong right from the beginning.

Warwick F:
There was too much debt, stock market crashed hurt our asset sales, within three years the company went under, and I’m reminded of something that Professor Badaracco said in an article that was written about the same time as his book in early 2000s. It’s called, We Don’t Need Another Hero. It’s Harvard Business Review article, and there’s a quote he says in there, here’s the quote, and he talks about quiet leadership and he says, “Quiet leadership is practical, effective, and sustainable.”

Warwick F:
And then he says this, “Quiet leaders prefer to pick their battles and fight them carefully rather than go down in a blaze of glory for a single dramatic effort.” Well, I did exactly what Professor Badaracco is saying you shouldn’t do. I went down literally in a single dramatic blaze of glory.

Gary S:
Right.

Warwick F:
It felt heroic, like The Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean war in the 1850s. A famous poem, I think it’s Tennyson and you know, “Guns to the left of them, guns to the right of them. Onward rode the five hundred” For movie folks, there’s a famous movie from the thirties with Errol Flynn in which he stars as the gallant captain riding to his death. Certain death, but what a gallant cavalry charge it was, doomed to failure, suicide. That was my, “I may go down all guns blazing, but my gosh, I’m going to try.”

Warwick F:
It was stupid in hindsight, but so, when professor Badaracco was talking about heroic leadership and why that’s not really the way to go in many cases, well, that struck a chord because that’s the approach I took and it didn’t work out so well. So yes, I’m a living testimony to heroic leadership is overrated.

Gary S:
And we’ll talk more about quiet leadership, alternative ways to that unleashing hell as they say in the movie Gladiator, “on my command, unleash hell,” right? We’ll talk more about other ways to approach leadership as we continue talking. But one of the things that that’s fascinating to me is that one of the reasons why heroic leadership is so attractive, so popular is because it tends to be the heroic leaders who get movies made about them. I think of Abraham Lincoln, I think of Winston Churchill, I think of Steve jobs in more recent times, I think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I think of those heroic leaders who get the heroic attention.

Gary S:
And then beyond that, there’s the whole superhero genre of filmmaking and the popularity of comic books and those kinds of things. And Batman’s the hero and Batman’s saving Gotham city, but one thing that those movies don’t do, and I’m a huge superhero fan, a huge Batman fan. I’ve seen every movie and TV show and I own all of them. One thing they never show in there is that he had to build the bat cave. If you don’t have a bat cave, you don’t have Batman. So yes, there’s that heroic nature of what Churchill did, what Batman does, but that’s not the whole story. So it can be attractive, it can be exciting to be part of that. But as you pointed out, that’s not always the best course of action.

Warwick F:
It’s not. And it’s funny, as I’ve been pondering the whole heroic versus quiet leadership, I think one of the things that can be a misnomer is we focus on the defining event. We don’t focus on the lead up. As you pointed out with Batman, I haven’t seen any movies talk about the construction of the Bat cave. Yes, we hear about the earlier days when Bruce Wayne’s parents that are killed in an alley by, I guess, a young Joker in this defining moment that takes him into a different direction. But we don’t hear too much about those intervening decades, at least not in most Batman movies. So, what’s the backstory that led him to be who he was and what was the process?

Warwick F:
So I think of some of the folks we’re talking about, Washington and Lincoln, one good example is you think of the early years of the American Revolution in 1776 and there was a great victory in which the Continental Army of the American colonies forced the British out from Boston Harbor and they all had to flee. And what we often don’t remember is the months that took to get there in the months leading up to this battle, Washington wanted to go in there, all guns blazing and his generals who were frankly, more experienced military commanders than he was, as he readily admitted, said, “Well, sorry, General Washington. We just don’t think in a very entrenched position in Boston, we just don’t think it would make sense.”

Warwick F:
Month after month, he would have a council of war, month after month they would say, “Sorry, not yet.” And it would just frustrate him, no end. He was just like, “Seriously, are you kidding me?” He was just so impatient, but yet he had the wisdom. It’s like, “I may be the head guy here, but my team is really smart and a lot more experienced at military campaigning than I.” And so he kept waiting and waiting eventually Colonel Knox brought some cannon from Fort Ticonderoga on the Hudson river over, they snuck him up one night onto the Dorchester Heights. And the cannons had such a great position that the British fleet left without hardly firing a shot at that point.

Warwick F:
And so, you think of the heroic moment of Washington having the British leave Boston. But we don’t remember is that quiet leadership, the patience of getting everything together. And so that was the genius of Washington is he was patient, he overcame his natural impulses, or you think of Lincoln and the great Emancipation Proclamation I think it came out in 1863, well, in the months leading up to it, it’s like, “I’m not going to announce this until, we, as the North actually have a victory.” And apparently it happened at Antietam that it was enough of a victory that he could say, “Okay, now we’ve got to announce it,” but he was waiting and waiting for the right time because announcing at the wrong time, maybe it would have not gone as well.

Warwick F:
So the bottom line is even heroic leaders, as prominent as Washington and Lincoln, they showed some level of patience and self control to wait. Traits that obviously I didn’t have. That I didn’t wait, which maybe things could have gone differently. So, we have this image of heroic leaders, but you peel back the layers, you go underneath and they’re heroic, but there’s some wisdom, there’s some quiet leadership attributes if you will, behind the heroism, which we don’t often realize.

Gary S:
To put that into a superhero context, as I like to do all the time, you’ve got to do the legwork before you do the cape work. As we’ve said, there is no Batman without a bat cave, you’ve got to have strategy. You’ve got to have planning. You’ve got to wait for the right moment. One of the things that Joseph Badaracco talks about when he talks about quiet leaders is that three things that characterize them is that in their leadership and in solving problems and for the sake of our conversation and moving beyond their crucibles, they buy time, they bend the rules a little bit. They look for ways to do things that are different than what might normally be planned. And they compromise, not necessarily their values, but they compromise those things that aren’t intractable values for them. By quieter I think we mean more intentional, more careful, more reasoned, more cautious. Is that fair?

Warwick F:
Yeah, absolutely is. I think the word comes to mind as they’re more thoughtful. There’s a phrase that somebody told me once, “Does something need to be done?” But then the next question is, “Am I the right person to do it?” As another aspect of leadership. So it’s knowing, “Okay, something may need to be done. Am I the right person?” And you might be. Or maybe there’s a better person who’s more equipped, more experienced, maybe frankly, more leveraged in terms of the people that need to be persuaded. So it’s more about, “Okay, does something need to be done?” And then, “Who is the best one to do it?” And that’s not abdicating responsibility. You can still have conversations and maybe do some things to make things happen. But a big part of it is patience, just waiting for the right time, building alliances to your perspective about what needs to be done.

Warwick F:
Lincoln spent years trying to build alliances to get the abolition of slavery through. It took a lot of intents of patience, building alliances, and one of the biggest ones is just humility, is stop looking to be the knight in shining armor that saves the day, to be Batman or Superman, to have your name in lights, as the great hero. If you really believe in the cause, whether it’s, like Lincoln, which almost feels like the ultimate cause, the abolition of slavery, it’s about getting the job done. It’s not about who gets the credit. It’s not about having your name in lights as Superman, that kind of thing. It’s really learning what you need to learn. It’s just, there’s a sense of humility of knowing what needs to be done when and patience, and you mentioned buying time.

Warwick F:
Sometimes it’s, now’s not the right time, but you find ways to buy time, whether it’s do more research and Joseph Badaracco, his book talks about getting legal’s opinion, HR, there’s some practical tools you can use that are justifiable to buy time. So, really the heroic leader, it’s it tends to be all about them going down in a blaze of glory rather than the quiet leader is more, “Let’s get it done, let’s not worry about who gets the credit and let’s be patient. And if it doesn’t happen this year, then maybe it’s next year.” It’s a different, frankly more practical and also in the long run, probably a more successful model of leadership.

Gary S:
Yeah, and again, listener, to be clear when we talk about humility, we don’t mean necessarily humility in opposition to arrogance in the sense that “heroic leaders,” truly are trying to solve problems, are trying to create better outcomes. That’s certainly what you were trying to do, Warwick. I don’t think you were motivated in your takeover of Fairfax Media. I don’t think you were trying to do it to get a bunch of accolades for yourself. I think you were trying to do it because, as you’ve said, you wanted to return the company to the vision of the founder, your great-great-grandfather.

Gary S:
There was some urging and also wanting to live up to the vision that was cast for you by your parents. But to the extent that you can do this, let’s rewind the clock to the takeover. And had you had access to Dr. Badaracco’s book and the things that he said in it when you were about to launch the takeover, had you processed some of those ideas of buying time, compromising, bending the rules, not needing to be the hero on the white steed, but taking your time, seeking counsel from others, all of those things. Can you even say, how might you have acted differently in that process?

Warwick F:
It’s a great question. Obviously what happened, it’s hard to conceive that it could have gone worse, so surely trying something else might’ve been helpful. But yeah, you raise some good points. I wasn’t consciously trying to do something to hurt people, even though maybe my subconscious, I was thinking of ’76 and other family members throwing my dad out as chairman. It wasn’t a conscious thought it was more management needs to be changed because they’re making some decisions that I thought wasn’t so good. Sale of the television network, which is a whole nother saga that I talk more about in the upcoming book, which will hopefully come out next year, Crucible Leadership and get into that story a bit more.

Warwick F:
The details don’t matter for the topic of our conversation, but it was really twin goals. It’s bring the company back to the ideals of the founder, which in my perception had drifted a bit, and see that the company was being well managed. So I felt like if I didn’t do something soon, more what I thought was dumb decisions like the sale of the Seven TV network would happen. A media company selling TV station didn’t make sense to me. So, let’s assume all of my assumptions were accurate, and they may not have been, but by launching this takeover, it caused a lot of ill feelings with family members. They sold out at fairly high prices and all, but all that being said, there was a lot of ill will, “Why did you do this Warwick?”

Warwick F:
Yes, there was speculation that after my dad died, that people were going to takeover the company, but, with close to 50%, that would have been very tough if we hung together. And so rather than talking to them and over time, over a number of years, trying to get some respect, within other family members involved in the company respect in the terms of me earning their respect for working in the company, building alliances.

Warwick F:
Maybe I was wrong about management. I don’t think so, but building some alliances for potential change in management, maybe trying to influence management. I’m a little skeptical that would have happened, but just showing some patience rather than going in all guns blazing, at least if I had tried, then maybe that would have been a better, less, frankly violent and hostile circumstances. Ultimately, staying in that company if people didn’t want good management, didn’t want to bring it back to the ideals of the founder, which obviously they would have probably disagreed with that premise, it’s a complex story. Would I have sold out, it would have been difficult.

Warwick F:
But yeah, certainly what I did didn’t make sense, but the value for me is I got out of a very difficult, complex situation, so it’s hard to look at. It probably would have been better for the company if I didn’t do that, the takeover. Would it have been better for me personally? I don’t know, but logically it would have been better to try some of those quiet leadership attributes, I still would have been locked into a company doing something that I potentially didn’t really enjoy. So it’s a different story than quiet leadership, but that’s why the whole do over thing gets really complicated. But yeah, certainly what I did wasn’t particularly helpful, and there might’ve been other avenues that, they may not have worked, but I think it would have been sensible to at least try them versus what I did.

Gary S:
And another point to make about the heroic leadership aspects of what you did with the takeover that I think is important, that we can’t emphasize enough is that you really weren’t. Heroic leadership does not have to be about ego and it certainly wasn’t about your ego in the sense that you wanted to establish Warwick Fairfax as the name of… you were still very shy. You were very retiring in the midst of all that, you didn’t do a lot of interviews. It was not about self aggrandizement for you, for sure.

Warwick F:
Well, absolutely. And it’s funny. Yeah, I was 26 at the time, a young, naive straight back from Harvard business school, which I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t listening enough to the professors, but it just gets very emotional when it’s your dad and family, and it’s hard to think straight. But I remember saying to other family members like, “I want control to be able to change management and keep the company safe, but I’m going to work in the marketing department.” Because I figured marketing strategy was something I could do and I didn’t want to be chairman or CEO, everybody can keep their titles. And I just want to quietly work my way up.

Warwick F:
And so it wasn’t about ego. Obviously no other family member’s going to want to be in a accompany controlled by a 26 year old. So it was naive to the extreme, but at the time I didn’t want the titles, the accolades. I just wanted it to be well run. So I thought my motives were reasonably good. It was just, my judgment was obviously questionable, but I wasn’t consciously trying to be this heroic leader with my name in lights. But yeah, it’s a complex story.

Gary S:
For sure. The other part that Badaracco talks about in quiet leadership is really important to the idea of coming back from crucibles. So if we go back into your story, the takeover has happened, it has failed. Then there comes a time where you did indeed, Warwick, over the course of over a couple of decades, exhibit quiet leadership. Here’s some of the things that Badarocco writes in that same article that you were quoting from earlier. He talks about how quiet leaders move patiently, carefully and incrementally.

Gary S:
That’s the story of Warwick Fairfax post takeover. It also says this, “And since many big problems, crucibles, can only be resolved by a long series of small efforts, quiet leadership, despite its seemingly slow pace often turns out to be the quickest way to make the corporation and the world a better place.” That seems to me to be a pretty good encapsulation of your road back beyond your crucible.

Warwick F:
Yeah, it’s an interesting point because I think I’m still, by nature, pretty impatient, but I also have, fortunately, a fair degree of self control. So I’ve tried to temper my natural impatience to want to get something done, even though I’m reflective, which is a curious conundrum. I’m reflective, but I also like getting things done. But yeah, I’ve learned patience, both at Crucible Leadership, I’m on two nonprofit boards. It’s interesting with those, my church board and then the K-12 school that my kids went to. There were times in which I felt like something needed to be done and not everybody was on the same page. And maybe a few were, and I just waited and, “Okay. If people aren’t on board, that’s okay.” My thoughts were heard and I felt respected on both boards and over time, change would happen.

Warwick F:
And so you’re not always going to be right, but just talking to people, just being a bit more patient as you wait for things to change, making your points, but it’s easier for people to hear you if they know at the end of the day you will go along with the collective. It’s never an issue of people advocating something that was immoral, unjust. Obviously I wouldn’t get along with that, but it’s really wisdom calls about do you spend money on, direction A, direction B, it’s typically those sorts of things. So yeah, I think I learned more patience. And then with Crucible Leadership, I started as listeners will know, probably around about 2008 after I gave a talk in church about my story that supposedly illustrated the sermon that the pastor was giving.

Warwick F:
And people came up to me afterwards and said, “Boy, this is really helpful.” And I didn’t know how my story could be helpful to normal people as opposed to media moguls, but somehow it did. So I started writing this book, Crucible Leadership, which again, I have a publishing deal with Morgan James, as I mentioned on an earlier podcast, which will hopefully come out next year. But it took me a number of years is to write. And then I chatted to some Australian publishers quite a number of years ago now. And there was some interest, but some wanted more of a tell all book, which I didn’t want to do.

Warwick F:
And so then somebody said, “Well, you need a brand. And that led me to the folks at SIGNAL in Denver and then yourself, Gary, and ROAR and just different elements came together. But it’s brick by brick coming out with blogs and social media, then starting a podcast last year, all to really help people engage with the message of Crucible Leadership and its different avenues and it’s hopefully as deeply as possible.

Warwick F:
I mean, Crucible Leadership in a sense started in 2008 with the beginning of the book. It’s taken years to get to this point, but often things that are worth doing, it’s worth having patience. And the key point is just taking one small step at a time. What’s one small win I can make this week? You start a new initiative. Like a podcast. Well that took a few months to get off the ground because, what’s it going to be like? What are the themes? How are we going to do this? What works in terms of my gifting and that endeavor alone took many meetings and many steps, but you just, to use that over worn analogy, just keep pushing the ball down the field one step, you know what you’re trying to get to, but you got to show patience.

Warwick F:
Another lesson I’ve learned is I’m a huge believer in communication. So with the team I have, which is an incredible team at Crucible Leadership, we’ll talk about things and I want to make sure if we’re going to go in a new direction, everybody’s on board, I mean to the degree possible, because if your team isn’t committed, it’s not going anywhere. Well, that takes time. It takes dialogue, together, one-on-one, it just takes time. So I’ve learned to force myself to have patience, even when I’m not feeling patient, I’ve learned the value of creating alliances, of listening to people, listening to good advice.

Warwick F:
I didn’t do that. One of the things that is somewhat haunting to me, to go back a moment, back in the era of the takeover in early ’87, I engaged some very well respected merchant bankers, basically investment bankers, to use US terminology. And they analyzed the situation and they said, “Warwick, we do not recommend you doing a take of a right now. We don’t think it would be wise. We don’t think it would work. And we think you should wait.” Well, I didn’t want to hear, “Wait.” Because I felt like this disaster is going to happen if we wait, given what happened with the TV network sale and what I thought was incompetent management.

Warwick F:
So I turned down wise counsel, however I ended up listening to is counsel that wasn’t so wise. So I ignored the wise people and listened to the advice of people who weren’t so good. It was just a classic case of what not to do. Now, I do listen to wise counsel. I don’t ignore it, even if it’s not what I want to hear. So it’s a painful lesson, but I’ve tried to never ignore good counsel, even if it’s exactly what you don’t want to hear.

Gary S:
Right. It’s so interesting to hear you talk about the way that you approached bouncing back from your crucible after it happened, after the takeover failed. And what popped into my head as you were talking is one of the folks I mentioned about those heroic leaders who get movies made about him. Steve jobs, Steve jobs got fired from Apple computer and he went off immediately and started another computer company. I can’t even remember what it was called because it was so unsuccessful. He jumped right back into the forge. He jumped right back in, new computer and it was a terrible failure and then over course of time, he comes back to Apple and then just look what he did from there. You didn’t do that. You didn’t come off of that experience of the takeover failing and try to launch something immediately quickly. You did what you talked about.

Gary S:
Step-by-step, one foot in front of the other, talk to people, get some confidence back, figure out what your… What we talked about at Crucible Leadership, what’s your passion? What are you passionate about? What’s your vision? What are those things that you want to do to make the world a better place? You took the time, you bought time, you bent the rules that said, “Must go out, get job, must be…” You didn’t do all of that stuff. You came back a step at a time. And now it’s developed into this thing of Crucible Leadership, which is so rewarding to you and is offering you a life of significance in helping others. And I think for anybody who’s listening to this right now, who has found themselves in a crucible, I would think your advice to them would be, follow the path coming out of your crucible, of the quiet leader, not the hero leader.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. And I’m in such a better place, at least personally and professionally because before, even if I’d followed quiet leadership attributes, there was another conundrum, which is really a different paradigm that we’ve about before, in that I didn’t necessarily want to be this take charge leader of a huge organization. I’m a quiet, reflective person. I don’t like the limelight. It was a terrible fit. But back then it’s like, “Well, I don’t want to let my dad down.” Who, I mentioned, died in early ’87, don’t want to let my family, John Fairfax, my great-great-grandfather founder, so one of the lessons coming out of my crucible was, I just wasn’t living my divine design, if you will. I was living somebody else’s vision, somebody else’s life.

Warwick F:
And so that was always going to be a tough square to circle. It probably was going to be impossible, even if I’d done all the right quiet leadership things. It just wasn’t my passion, my vision. So again, that’s a whole nother thing that we’ve talked about before, but now, I’m living my own vision and I’m doing it in a way that works for me given my personality. So it’s a vision I’m excited about. It’s something that I’m wired… As a reflective advisor, I love asking questions. So podcasts work really well. I love writing, blogs work well. So a lot of the things that I do in Crucible Leadership, are really in line with my gifts and I’m able to have people around me that compliment gifts that I don’t have. I’m not Mr. Network Salesman Type. And I enjoy that kind of thing. Well, I have other people that help me and you can’t be everything.

Warwick F:
So yeah, I’m in a much better place doing what I enjoy with a team that had complementary skills and doing it step by step and realizing you can’t accomplish everything you want to accomplish overnight. It’s a process, be patient. You’ll get there. If it’s in alignment with how you’re wired, if it’s a vision that you’re off the charts passionate about, if it’s something that involves a higher purpose, living a life of significance, that gives you staying power. Because if you think it’s important enough, you’ll hang in there. So, so many things are better in line. And I do force myself to be patient because it’s just the more successful route than going in all guns blazing as I did with the Fairfax takeover

Gary S:
We’ve come to the moment in the podcast where, in this particular podcast, it’s time to land the bat plane. We’re getting to the point where we’ve got to land the bat plane, but one of the things, Warwick, is I was doing research and I haven’t shared this with you yet because we’ve talked about how in a superhero context, they don’t often show about how Batman became Batman or how he built the bat cave and all that. I was looking at some clips in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, which begins with Batman Begins, there’s an excellent quote in there that first is told to young Bruce Wayne by his father, and then told later, as he’s just starting to come into being Batman by Alfred his butler, who is like his surrogate father.

Gary S:
But that quote is when Bruce falls down into the bat well on the family property and he’s scared by the bats, his father picks him up, carries him back into the house and he says to Bruce Wayne, young Bruce Wayne, ten-year-old Bruce Wayne, “Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” And years later when Bruce is trying to be a heroic leader and do something and it falls flat and Alfred encourages him with the same thing. “Why do we fall, sir? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” And I thought that was just so perfect for this conversation because it proves the point that we’re talking about here, that you’ve got to have some background, some quiet, even for the heroic leadership, but that’s also a pretty good motto, a pretty good lesson for folks in the Crucible Leadership context. Why do we fall? Why do we fail? Why do we have crucibles? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.

Gary S:
What’s the last few words you want to share with folks who’ve been listening to this today, Warwick, as they try to wrap their minds around heroic leadership, which is not a bad thing, but not always the right thing and quiet leadership.

Warwick F:
Yeah, I think really based off what you just said about that story of young Bruce Wayne, nobody likes failure, nobody likes falling and it’s very painful, but the gift of failure, the gift of mistakes is you learn from them. I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve learned to say, “Okay, I’m going to make other mistakes. But I’m not going to make that mistake again. I’m going to build alliances. I’m going to be patient, gather complimentary team members.” So, I think it’s fine to have a vision, just make sure it’s your vision. Make sure it’s in line with your gifting. And then if it is in line with your gifting and it is your vision, be patient, be humble, step at a time, listen to advice, build alliances.

Warwick F:
Probably humility and patience are probably the two most important things about quiet leadership. It’s the internal, it’s the character. That’s really the key. If you’re a patient and not wrapped up in who gets the glory and it’s in line with who you are and it’s a vision you’re off the charts passionate about, then you’ll get there, step by step, small win by small win. If you have enough small wins, pretty soon that adds up into a fairly big win.

Gary S:
It adds up to what someone might call a heroic win.

Warwick F:
Indeed.

Gary S:
Those little, quiet wins that build up to it. Well, that is the sound of the wheels on the runway, listeners. So, thank you. We’ve landed the bat plane. Thank you for spending time with us at Beyond the Crucible. Until we get together next time, please drop by CrucibleLeadership.com, where you can find all of our podcasts that we’ve had thus far. You can listen to all of them. We urge you to subscribe to those podcasts, share them with friends. If you’ve gotten anything from this conversation and from previous conversations that is beneficial to you as you navigate your way back from your crucible, please share that with folks.

Gary S:
You can also sign up to receive regular emails from Warwick on some of the topics, the very kinds of topics that we talk about on this podcast. Certainly what we’re talking about here, about quiet leadership and leading with humility, not arrogance kind of humility, but humility to not have to be the white knight all the time, to be patient, as Warwick has so well explained. So, until the next time that you’re with us here on Beyond the Crucible, thank you again for joining us. And remember this, that you may be going through a very painful crucible right now, but that crucible, as Warwick’s story proves, as the story of so many guests we’ve had on the show proves, that’s not the end of your story. It can in fact be the beginning of your story. And that beginning can be the best part of your story because that new beginning can lead to something that we all crave and something that’s within all of our grasps. And that is a life of significance.

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