Friday Reflections – The Lord of the Rings

Friday Reflections - The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit House.

I am reading Lord of the Rings to my son at the moment. This is a big deal as these are my favourite books. I love the depth and tangibleness of the world Tolkien created, I love not just the adventure and characters but the language used so beautifully to describe the scenery and landscapes the heroes move through on their epic journey. If Lucas doesn’t love the books too then it could prove to be a problem!

The Lord of the Rings is littered with many different lessons we could take on: life, relationships, and leadership. I thought I would pull out two business lessons, although I could probably do hundreds:

Lesson 1 – anyone can choose to be a leader: When choosing how they will destroy, the greatest danger known to them, the One Ring, they hold a special council where all the powerful leaders and warriors from the different races of the world gather to decide what to do. As this grand company argues amongst itself it is Frodo, a small and undistinguished Hobbit who steps up and says “I will take the Ring; though I do not know the way.”

Leadership doesn’t have to be assigned to you, anyone can choose to lead and can set the tone and the example. It is no surprise to me that when I look at the best leaders I have worked with they are often the people who do this. The ones that choose to lead in their actions, to have an impact, to find a solution, to improve the situation regardless of their current job title and because of this attitude, recognition was given and leadership was ultimately bestowed on them – not the other way round – they didn’t go looking for it for their own sake alone.

Lesson 2 – focus on what you can control: At one point of despair Frodo exclaims that “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf responds: “So do all men who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey articulates this same point by distinguishing between our Circle of Concern (things we care about but can’t control) and our Circle of Influence (things we care about and can impact): Your Circle of Influence are the things that concern you that you can do something about. He states that a positive and proactive focus on the things we can control will actually have a secondary effect of increasing our Circle of Influence. In contrast, by spending too much time focused on the things we can’t control in our life, family, or business, we may actually reduce our influence on the things we should be able to control directly.

I hope Lucas loves the books, I hope he can appreciate the wonderful way the world is constructed and language is used. If he doesn’t then if nothing else I hope some of the many lessons about trust, friendship, perseverance in adversity and leadership sink in.