The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a book I used to read over again as a child.   As I recollect fondly about my three imaginary companions – Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodman and Scarecrow, it dawned on me that their adventures along the yellow brick road contains some endearing lessons on relationships and a leader’s journey.

Cowardly Lion was on a journey in search of courage.  While, he finds himself intimidated by the fierce beasts of the forest, it was through moments when his companion’s lives were endangered that he found courage to risk his own and and take a stand.  Tin Woodman was in search  of a heart and it was through the supportive relationships around him that brought out compassion, conviction, and a concern for others.   As in the words of a song “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn’t already have.”  The adorable scarecrow was in doubt of his own intellect and it was through tribulations, not of his own, that he demonstrated remarkable insight and wisdom together with his friends.

Like Cowardly Lion, one may feel intimidated by stronger forces or negativity at the workplace.  Yet courage is found in standing up for one’s companions and acting on behalf of those who may not be able to defend themselves.  Like Tin Woodman, leaders may feel that the demands of work have turned them into hard taskmasters.  Yet compassion can be found in relationships that draw out the positive rather than the negative.  Like the Scarecrow, we may feel that we’re never smart enough for the task.  Yet wisdom is found when tested in challenging circumstances and developed in solving challenges together with others.

The journey of the yellow brick road may resonate with our own dilemmas and struggle as leaders.  The endearing lesson is how the journey is enriched with diverse travel companions.  Our ongoing research at CCL on how leaders in different parts of the world develop, reveals a salient truth to leader development – relationships play a critical role in supporting, provoking, and drawing out development.  It is through such relationships that one develops courage, compassion, and wisdom, even when the ideal seems to be far from reality.

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