How important is strong leadership? Last week I talked about the fact that a tree does make a forest. What is the impact that people with forest thinking can have on society? I described forest thinking as the kind of thinking that says that if I were the only tree in this forest I will find a way to cover up for the lack of other trees. It says that if I was the only tree in this forest, no animal or bird will know that I am the only one because I will stretch my branches to cover the entire forest area. Forest thinking is when people assume the responsibility for the destiny and success of multitudes beyond them.
Is this realistic? Can a tree really make a forest? We all know of companies that were at the verge of annihilation that experienced dramatic turnarounds simply because a forest thinker took over. Perhaps the most popular turnaround story in recent times is the story of Apple. When Steve Jobs was fired from the company, they took a nose dive and was at the brink of becoming history when a forest thinker who felt it was his responsibility to make a dent in the universe showed up. And a dent he did make with all the amazing gadgets he gave us. It did not take a committee. It did not take a democratic process. It took one man who felt it was his calling to change the world. He famously said that he did not believe in market research because his customers did not know what they wanted till they were given. He quoted another forest thinker called Henry Ford who said if his customers were asked what they needed they could never have imagined a car. They would have asked for faster horses!
The sign, “For Whites only’ was a regular in Americas south until a forest thinker – a young Baptist preacher by the name of Martin Luther King rose to the situation. He believed that the destiny and dignity of blacks rested in his ability to successfully change the laws that made them second class humans. With threats, detention and ultimately his life, Martin Luther King paved the way for blacks to rise and his work was eventually culminated on the day a black man called Barak Obama was voted into the highest office in the land.
Historically, the British were demoralized and confused by the events leading to the Second World War so much so that the then Prime Minister Arthur Neville Chamberlain became known as the apostle of appeasement because of the many concessions that he gave to Hitler. The Evening Independent of October 3, 1940 said of Chamberlain, ‘Umbrella carrying Neville Chamberlain of the bushy eyebrows and moustache gained the name of “Apostle of Appeasement” by his efforts to smooth out difficulties with totalitarian powers in his hope of assuring ‘peace in our time’. As Britain’s prime minister during the troubled period preceding the outbreak of war in September 1939, he sought to appease Premier Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. It did not work. When Churchill became prime minister with a wave of defiance and total departure from Chamberlains policies of appeasement, the war took a different turn. The British outlook to the war changed. A forest thinker had changed the outlook of a whole Nation.
At the peak of the great depression American morale was at an all time low. The economic crisis was biting . People were confused and hopeless. Then came a forest thinker called Franklin D Roosevelt and the story changed.
Let us remind ourselves of the story of David and Goliath. For days Goliath and the Philistines had intimidated the army of the Israelites. They were literally paralyzed until a forest thinker emerged called David who took the destiny of the Israelites upon himself. He killed Goliath and suddenly the whole Israelite army is recorded to have pursued the Philistines. All they needed was for David to stand up to the challenge.
What am I driving at today? A tree does make a forest. You can decide to be a tree thinker and just think of yourself or you can be a forest thinker and take the challenge that destiny has thrust upon you to make a difference. Be assured that no matter how bad you think your situation is, there is still someone somewhere who envies you and looks up to you. Let me end with the words of Mordecai to his niece Esther.
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion?
If you do not rise to this great challenge of destiny, someone else will. However, you may wake up one day to discover that you just missed the greatest opportunity of a lifetime.