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A Little Humility Spares the Guillotine

By Dr. Eric J. Russell, HCI Research Associate

What is the effect on the least privileged in society; will he benefit, or, at least, will he not be further deprived? -Robert K. Greenleaf’s The Servant as Leader



Atop the Roue de Paris, one can become lost in the beauty of the Paris. At 200ft, the famous Ferris wheel affords riders the opportunity to take in an unobstructed view of some of the world’s most notable treasures. From this perch, onlookers can gaze at the grandeur of the Champs-Elysées. The majestic spires and buttresses of the Norte Dame. The awe-inspiring image of the Eiffel Tower. The Roue de Paris stands in the Place de la Concorde in the city’s 8th Arrondissement. As the towering wheel turns, delivering each onlooker an unforgettable image, life below is fast paced and bustling. Heavy traffic of locals and tourists, lovers and families, navigate vendors selling everything from trinkets to macaroons. Individuals walk among them offering selfie-sticks, laser-light toys, and umbrellas for a few Euro. At night it can be a dizzying soul-fulfilling experience.


In the hustle and flow of the Place de la Concorde one can innocently overlook what took place in that exact spot where the Roue de Paris stands. Around 1790, long before a Ferris wheel became a part of the Paris Skyline, stood another marvel of engineering, the guillotine. It was in this very place, at the height of the French Revolution where King Louis XVI was beheaded. Ten months later, Queen Marie Antoinette, Louis’s wife, fell victim to the same fate.


So, you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with leadership?


Everything!


Society for the most part champions success, fame and achievement. Wealth and celebrity are celebrated and placed upon pedestals. When earned free of violence, coercion, or fraud, accomplishment deserves celebration as well as the rewards that come with it. For the most part, the common person has little bitterness against those who succeed for it is the hope of those who don’t have much in the present, to have more in the future. The majority of people imagine themselves in a better place down the road. The Pareto Principle is both accepted and understood with most people envisioning themselves being a part of that winning 20%. However, where it goes off the rails, and Louis XVI can attest to this, is when the few seemingly have it all while the masses seem to have none.