Learning to lead change – because you can

Matthew and I sit down on a Thursday evening after a relaxing walk with our dogs. I am blown away by the Colorado Rockies’ purple mountain splendor. We have a beer together and then turn on the TV. The movie Seabisquit is just starting. A little back-story: Seabiscuit is a racehorse and the movie is a story of three men that a find a way back from hardship and together, discover purpose and hope through Seabiscuit. It might seem odd that a change management consultant is writing about Seabiscuit.  Let me tell you more of the story.

Jeff Bridges and Tom Smith (played by Chris Cooper) share one of my favourite scenes around a campfire. Charles Howard, a wealthy businessman, is looking for a trainer for his horse. Mr. Howard noticed Tom earlier in the movie standing in a field, gently patting a golden palomino horse. Mr. Howard inquires about the man in the field — his fellow businessmen dismiss Mr. Smith as some horse quack. Yet, Mr. Howard is curious and approaches Mr. Smith later that evening at a campfire in he woods.

The two men exchange pleasantries and Mr. Smith asks Mr. Howard, “You want a seat?” The palomino horse stands nearby, peaceful and eating grass. In the film, Mr. Smith sees the horse being handled by five men plus — one man is ready to shoot it in the head. Mr. Smith buys the horse and begins to heal the emotional and physical injuries. 

Mr. Howard questions. “Will he race?”  

Mr. Smith says “No, it’s not that one”.

“Why aren’t you fixing him?” asks Mr. Howard

“Because I can. Every horse is useful for something. He could be a cart pony or a horse. Ya know, you don’t throw a whole life away just cause he’s banged up a little.” (My face is swollen with tears. Horses and kindness touch the very core of my being.

The men are able to relax and share a quiet moment, knowing that they will remain close friends for a long period of time.

“Is that coffee?”Mr. Howard wants to know.

“Yeah, it is bad though.” “Mr. Smith.”  

Mr. Howard laughs knowing he is in a presence of a gentle soul, “Do you always tell truth?”

“Well, I try.”Mr. Smith makes Mr. Howard a cup.

The next scene occurs three months later at a Saratoga, New York race track. Mr. Smith is consulting with Mr. and Mrs. Howard about finding a racehorse. 

It’s not just about the speed; it’s also the heart. You want something that isn’t afraid to compete. The majority of these horses are show ponies. You want something that will not run away from a fight.

Here lies the key to change management. Taking action to fix something that others view as hopeless and doing so anyway “Because I can” is a characteristic of leadership. People will be often difficult to change if they have to question their assumptions or make a difference in their daily lives. We need more change leaders with heart, that aren’t afraid to move forward despite resistance , change leaders that will not run away as grand, inspiring promises give way to tough implementation challenges.

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You can lead.

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