Just picture it!

Here’s my hypothesis:  Most people have never seen–let alone been a part of–driving change.

If that is true, then when you try to explain driving change only with words (instead of with pictures and vivid emotions) you’d be met with a sea of lost and confused looks.

Yep; the sea of lost looks is what I keep finding.

I’ve been pondering: What should I do?

I’ve tried very hard to put myself in the shoes of people who’ve never seen someone driving change.  What must it look like?

People don’t lead from the front; they order you from behind.

People don’t rally around something greater than themselves; they minimize their lives to the orders of others.

People don’t appeal to the sense of urgency that lives inside all of us; they take what they can get and leave us flat and spent.

What picture can I paint for these people when that’s all they’ve ever known?

I went looking for a painting that uses each brushstroke to signify the risks, the rewards, the heroism and the honor of driving change.

I went looking when I should have just looked up.  There’s a painting that hangs above my desk, every day reminding me of not to stop driving change: Mort Kunstler’s The Rough Riders.

The Rough Riders by Mort Kunstler

This excerpt from the National Guard page contains the driving change story [emphasis mine]:

With the declaration of war with Spain in April 1898, 164,932 National Guardsmen entered Federal service. The 1st New Mexico Cavalry entered Federal service as the 2nd Squadron, 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the “Rough Riders.” Theodore Roosevelt conceived the idea of raising a cavalry regiment recruited from businessmen, cowboys and outdoorsmen. Roosevelt, a former New York National Guardsman, helped to organize the regiment and was appointed its lieutenant colonel. After training in Texas and Florida, the Rough Riders landed in Cuba, without their horses, on June 22, 1898. It was during the Battle of San Juan Hill, on July 1, that the Rough Riders, under the command of Lt. Col. Roosevelt, made their mark in American military history. Ordered to seize Kettle Hill in support of the main attack, the Rough Riders fought their way to the top despite heavy enemy fire. New Mexico’s E and G Troops were among the first to reach the top of Kettle Hill. After taking the hill, the Rough Riders continued their attack, seizing the heights overlooking the city of Santiago. The American victory led to the Spanish surrender two weeks later. The gallant heritage of the 2nd Squadron of the Rough Riders is perpetuated by the 200th Air Defense Artillery, New Mexico Army National Guard.

Theodore Roosevelt created a unified team around a sense of urgency, provided them an opportunity to succeed, rallied them to overcome any obstacle, led from the front (if not on horseback as pictured, then as their leader first in their minds) and won the day (and soon after the war) from atop Kettle Hill.

Now I’ve told you how I see driving change.

What picture do you see?

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One thought on “Just picture it!

  • April 8, 2010 at 8:53 am
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    The picture I see is that of Capt. Michael Abrashoff standing on the bow of the USS Benfold. At the time, he was the youngest officer to assume command and at the change-of-command ceremony the captain before him was booed by the crew. Anyone who has ever been to a ceremony like that knows that booing the CO is unheard of…

    Capt. Abrashoff transformed the crew into the best performing crew in the Navy. He did it through empowerment and communication. It’s fascinating to see the drive of change in action. IMO, driving change is not about “a blaze of glory.”

    When I look at the picture you displayed, I think to the training that went into that one moment. Roosevelt had to instill confidence, ownership, and dedication. He created this group of fighters from diverse backgrounds. It was years of change for a moment of glory.

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