What Gumby Knows About Leadership That You Might Not


Lead Yourself Now author tells why the cartoon character is a role model

This is the first in an occasional series on leadership by NTC Editor Sheron C. Patterson. It is excerpted from her book, Lead Yourself Now: The Busy Leaders Guide to Personal Success.

Lead Yourself Now book coverLeaders must be flexible and adaptive. Flexibility is being able to turn on a dime, if need be. Other times, it is about carefully discerning the relevant direction and taking that path. Either way, fast or slow, leaders are willing and able to change.

Why? Change is the nature of our world, and those who lead must be skilled at modifying and altering without an attitude.

Some situations require leaders to assimilate into a different mindset for success. Other situations require leaders to stretch themselves like the old kid’s toy Gumby. I had one of those as a child, along with Pokey, Gumby’s horse companion. In my mind, the best feature of Gumby was that I could pull and expand his limbs, and I could bend him and unfold him. He was my first role model for flexibility.

As an adult, I still remembered the value in flexibility. For years I kept a poster on the wall of my office that read, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.” The poster grew dog-eared and faded, but it stayed on my wall as a survival mantra. My career was taking off; I was going places. But the route was partially obscured. I became springy and malleable to embrace the progress ahead of me. The old poster taught me early on that sometimes getting ahead meant being lithe.

Flexibility should not be confused with being indecisive. The flexible leader knows where he/she is going. Making needed adjustments is not the same as being unable to commit to a direction.

How do you do this? Obviously, nimble and agile leadership is akin to being nimble and agile physically. You tend toward stiffness if you have not stretched in a while. Stretch your leadership by looking at projects from another point of view. Don’t assume that you are always right. Maybe you or your team need to shift and reposition. Do not overthink the new opportunity. Perhaps you should adjust to advance your career, your family or your dreams.

Flexibility Exercise

Reflection is a secret weapon for successful leaders. Take a few moments for self-editing and reflect and answer these questions:

  • What areas of your life need flexibility?
  • Where and why are you rigid in some leadership areas?
  • Are you embarrassed by or comfortable with bending or stretching as a leader?

Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2017