Saturday, January 12, 2008

Don Quixote

Don Quixote – Finding leadership in Lunacy

Reference: Don Quixote by Cervantes

The novel Don Quixote was written by Cervantes in 17th century and has been a best seller not only of its time but across centuries and the world. It is the only novel to be translated into most number of languages.

It is a story of Don Quixote, a tall thin idealistic country gentleman who after reading books about knights in medieval times gets such a fascination about knights that he starts believing himself to be one! He longs to do acts of bravery and does not miss any opportunity for it even if the opportunity does not exist. He is accompanied in his pursuits of knighthood, by Sancho Panzo, a greedy, cowardly but kind and faithful peasant labourer who acts as a reality check for Don but is conveniently ignored by the knight.

Don’s various acts in the story seem to be stupid and nonsensical but at the same time his single minded pursuit of goal force us to ponder whether he is a delusional madman or a leader ruled by vision and strong sense of self. He exemplifies the fact that when a mission consumes you, it fills you with optimism, creativity and stamina. The character forces us to search for answers to questions like:
a. Should we be ashamed of our dreams or follow them in reality regardless of their absurdity?
b. Should we hold values that the world around us has forgotten and placed in meuseums?
c. What is better - being people's hero or being hero in one's own eyes?
d. Where is the line that separates boldness from recklessness, bravery from blindness and cowardice from prudence?

Though the character may not be able to give clear answers to the above questions but certain leadership qualities do come out rather strikingly. He is full of energy and looks forward to the unknown despite being old. His ability to imagine has not withered with age. When on a mission, however absurd it may be for the rest of the world, his single minded pursuit is admirable.

Managers of organizations can draw lessons in leadership from Don. Whether they will like to be a Sancho who represents the world at large and is found in abundance or will they assume the role of Don and refuse to conform to the norms of the society thereby setting up their own norms and achieving the results that they dream about. Don exhibits a sense of responsibility many times and teaches the managers to be responsible for their actions, words and dreams. Don proves that achieving dreams calls for being mad; it demands rebelling against the set rules of the world.