The story of a hero and a leader.
The BBC’s report on Raoul Wallenberg achieving honorary Australian citizenship this morning told of a remarkable man’s accomplishment. Or of a man making
the best of all his knowledge and being and ‘stepping’ up in times of need?
Raising the question are leaders born or made?
This question gets raised when leaders are identified and scrutinized. If it’s the latter, (and most of us believe it is) we can all adopt the ‘Wallenberg Effect’ and become the leaders we are meant to be in our everyday life.
A little background: In 1944, Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat was sent to Budapest to ‘save’ this Jewish community. You can imagine the challenge: the Nazi’s were in a hurry to ensure Budapest’s 700,000 Jews followed in the footsteps of millions of other murdered Jews in Europe. Wallenberg was only 33, and had no real diplomatic skills. He was rich, He had connections and his family name offered protection. Mostly, he had chutzpah, conviction, and, courage. Taking extraordinary and audacious actions, he managed to save close to 100,000 Hungarian Jews. In one story he jumped on top of a cattle car to hand fake Swedish passports to people on the way to camps. He took people out of death march lines, ‘reminding’ them of their Swedish backgrounds. On more than one occasion he convinced the Nazi’s NOT to shoot people after round-ups. In sad irony, when the Russians ‘liberated’ Budapest in January 1945, they placed Wallenberg in jail and he was never heard/seen again.
It’s ‘interesting’ there are roughly 100,000 Jews identified to be living in Hungary today. This is the largest Jewish population in Eastern Europe, and there is also rising Anti-Semitism.
But his strength in action, lives on. And after hearing the story this morning, I was reminded of the why and what of the ‘Wallenberg Effect’.
The 5 characteristics attributed to Wallenberg are easily matched with basic leadership professional development we’ve all taken and/or taught. And it’s always good to take a moment and remind ourselves (and others) of how to be our best: http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/readings/wallenberg.htm
1. Knowledge: Wallenberg know his strengths and communication style. He took 100% responsibility for ensuring (the Nazi’s) heard his message by meeting their ‘WIIFM’s’ (What’s In It For Me) or motivation which was to be strong and secure.
How do you define your EQ? How do you support and develop this knowledge in others?
2. Objective: Wallenberg acted on what he thought was right (values) and “walked the talk” when it came to saving the Hungarian Jewish community.
What are your top 5 values? What actions do you take on a daily basis that support your beliefs?
3. Ingenuity: To be sure Wallenberg had great connections, but he also used his knowledge of the Nazi’s love for extravagant detail when he supervised the creation of fake Swedish passports. I’m sure his ingenuity, along with his EQ came into play as he ‘created’ 30 safe houses to hide people.
How do you know when things aren’t working and what steps do you take to identify a new win-win solution?
4. Confidence: Chutzpah anyone? Wallenberg made full use of his ‘charisma’ to stand up and ‘direct’ the Nazi’s in a way no-one else had. Certainly his conviction and confidence swayed the Nazi’s to let him pull people out of death march lines.
How do you act when you are 100% sure of your conviction (versus when you are not)?
5. Courage: I heard Wallenberg acted with, ‘No fear of death’, focused on the end result. He was shot at while he was on top of that car handing out fake passports, and certainly could have been killed by the Nazi’s at any point in time.
When do you stand up for yourself and others even when you know you ‘are going against the grain’?
- An icon of courage!
Surely being in remarkable circumstances brings out the extraordinary in all of us.
But why wait? If not now, when?
I think there are important small, quiet and safe times when we can stand out and develop ourselves to be our best. Hopefully, most of us will never be in the position Wallenberg was in.
We can all take small steps that lead to giant saves.
We can still sign petitions and speak up against hate of all kinds.