Words and Leadership
By Malcolm Parker
Have you ever wondered why the English language is prominent in the world today? I don't know why it is either, but I am going to give you some of my guesses.
When the British Empire collapsed, it left the English language as the language of government in many countries, and this helped maintain the English language throughout the world.
But it was the Americans, a former colony, who really put English on the map. They decided that English was going to be their language, but they were going to call it American.
In their desire to make English American, they chose a whole new set of words that were different from the words that are used in Britain.
For instance, in North America it's a truck - in Britain it's a lorry. A station wagon in North America is a shooting brake in Britain, an elevator in North America is lift in Britain, an escalator in North America is a moving staircase in Britain, and you know those long buses with a concertina in the middle - in North America they are called articulated buses in Britain (you will never guess what they call them) they are called bendy buses.
Can you just see Shakespeare rotating in his grave? I read in the New York Times that London Transport is getting rid of these buses. I don't know the technical reasons, but I suspect the main reason is to banish the name bendy bus for ever.
So you can see dual names created by America have extended the English language.
Still on the subject of words, at last week's meeting of Burrard Toastmasters Club, a club that is on the cutting edge of everything, we added a Chinese word to the English language. I'm not going to tell you what it was because it is difficult for me to pronounce. At last week's meeting, it was written on the lectern so I just had to point. Sign language can be very useful.
The English language is much like a Black Hole: it sucks in words from all languages, and holds them forever. However the Black Hole does eject, and it ejects words, like Bendy Bus.
Well we've looked at words, so now where does leadership come in? To my mind, leadership consists of three things, Cause, Self Education, and Intuition.
Without a Cause, leadership is pointless. Self Education is required to gain what is generally not understood, and Intuition is required because many decisions in leadership have no precedent.
I have picked three people to demonstrate how words and leadership come together.
Steve Jobs: he created incredible high tech gadgets, and pioneered promotional meetings with very effective speeches with visual effects.
Jamie Oliver: a chef from Britain who persuaded the British Parliament to change the food in British school dinners, from fast food to healthy food. He has also started restaurants that are run by under privileged youth, and in the process has given many speeches, one of which was on TED Talks, for which he got a special award. His opening sentence was: By the time I finish this speech, sixty Americans will be dead from poor nutrition.
Churchill: As you all know, he led Britain to victory over the Nazis, and he used oratory to unite Britain. Something that isn't well known is that in preparing his speeches, he reviewed Queen Elizabeth the First's speeches given in the 16th Century, to unite England against Spain . Both had a common cause, but very different circumstances.
The causes I have just described are vastly different, but the leaders all have one thing in common, and that is none of them completed a university education. So a higher education is not a requirement for finding a cause.
By the same token, it doesn't mean that if you have a higher education, you are disadvantaged from finding a cause. Quite the contrary.
Take Margaret Thatcher, for instance. She had a degree in chemistry from Oxford University. Then she became self educated in politics and economics, and went on to become Prime Minister of Great Britain, where she realised the problems with the Euro as single currency are caused because the countries in Europe are different in size and GDP.
There are no restrictions of gender or class to taking up a cause.
All you need are words and leadership.
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