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A New Paradigm of Leadership from Charles Shulz

charles-schulz-peanutsThe following philosophy has often been attributed to, Charles Shulz, the creator of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

In our capacities as fathers and mothers, family protectors, and business decision makers, we all have to measure other people.

We have to judge who to trust, to help us, and who to lead us. Who will I trust with my kids? Who will I do business with? Who do I trust as a political leader? Who do I trust for investment advise?

What criteria are we using when we make these judgments?

In the quest to build leaders it is easy to say that we want them to have impact in society, to make a difference, to “be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Okay, I agree with that, but what character qualities, what skills, what disciplines do we want to inculcate in these future leaders to achieve the desired “change?”

What follows is the philosophy of Charles Schulz:

  1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
  2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
  3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
  4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
  5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
  6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, few of us remember the headliners of yesterday — and these are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners. And we seem to be little effected by these momentary achievements.

Now try this quiz:

  1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
  3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
  4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
  5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
  6. Identify 2 mentors who helped to open the doors of life for you.
  7. Recall one act of kindness that forever changed your perspective on life.


The lesson: 

The people who make a difference in your life are almost never the ones with the most credentials, money, or awards. They simply are the ones who care the most.

And people who make a positive difference in your life are probably making a positive difference in the lives of others at the same time. Good people are usually good to everybody.

These criteria should also apply to our leaders. High achievement is contagious and helps to raise the standard for all of us. So yes, when possible we want our leaders to be the best in their fields. But we also need leaders who are not afraid to admit mistakes, who genuinely care for others, who are charitable in their private lives, who are truth and principle driven, who are self-deprecating and humble.

As Exodus 18:21 reads,

“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be [their] rulers…”

It is time we reexamined this whole leadership thing. After all, we are the ones who decide who we are going to follow — a basic requirement for leadership.

So if we get to decide who the leaders are why are we choosing so many bad leaders?

Or maybe bad leadership is not the issue here. Maybe bad choosing is the real problem.

When we choose leaders, are we more concerned about what is in their hearts or are we more interested in what is in their wallet and how much that will benefit us?

When we choose leaders do we care more about how they think or who they know?

When we choose leaders are we more interested in what they do when few are looking or do we value the intuitive skill of smelling out a good photo op?

Again I say, it is time we reexamined this whole leadership thing.


Shanon Brooks is the President of Monticello College, the Director of Education and Training for Humanitarian Visions International, S.A., and a contributing editor of the Center for Social Leadership. He co-authored Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens.

Shanon and his wife Julia are raising their six children in Monticello, Utah.

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