"If you want to be a leader, be a bridge" - Welsh Proverb
I came across a collection of Welsh stories recently written in the 1300's.
They're a mixture of folklore, myth, and wisdom.
In one story, Queen Branwen and her men are in a spot of trouble, so Bendigeidfran stretches out over the river to serve as a bridge for the men, uttering the words, "A fo ben, bid bont." For those of you not fluent in Welsh, this means; 'He who would be a leader, let him be a bridge.'
At a time when elected leaders around the world are intent more on dividing people and emphasising difference, a few bridges would come in handy.
In order to be a bridge builder, you have to engage in the often painful and fraught stuff of connecting with people.
Sometimes, it goes even further and you need to actually be the bridge, not just a bridge-builder.
How many leaders get detached from those around them … or even those they are leading? People often need time, and need us to go to them, but not just by email, phone or facebook. However, let's draw it back and consider how we can become a bridge builder in our everyday lives.
Bridges connect. They remind us there is more that connects people than divides them. The bridge in the picture above is one I have traversed many times in my life. It's the main southern route between England and Wales.
As a massive rugby fan, I have joined in many banter-filled conversations on the chasm between the "ugly, boring and pedestrian" game played by the english and the "beautiful, adventurous and exciting" game played by the welsh. Importantly though, the bridges built in the bar after the game ensure everyone remembers that what unites us - a love of the game - is far more important than the silliness exchanged in the stadium.
Connecting others is a selfless act. Just this week I connected two people in my network who could support each other. Having identified an area of mutual benefit for them both, I simply introduced them on LinkedIn. No big deal from my perspective but I know very valuable to them.
Seeking connections in our own lives can, as suggested above, be more challenging. Unfortunately, some people have been scarred along life's journey and are suspicious of friendly approaches. They are always anticipating a catch.
Our job, if we suspect we can help them in some way, is to be, simply, persistent. I say "simply" because some people see the process of trying more than once as "difficult", when in fact it it the very same action, just repeated. The only difficulty is that which we build up in our minds.
The second aspect of bridge building is slightly less obvious. It's all about building a bridge between one generation and the next. Here, we can all do more.
It's true that most people insist on learning from experience, even though it is often more painful.
Nevertheless, sharing our experience, insight and wisdom is, in my view, always the right thing to do.
It may be time consuming, it may even be exasperating at times, but it calls on the same desire to ensure the safety of our children. We don't shrug off that responsibility just because it may be difficult sometimes.
If we are to be a bridge for those we seek to lead and leave a legacy, there will be challenges.
However, in my opinion the world needs more change makers, more leaders, more people who will build bridges for others and between them and others.
A fo ben, bid bont.
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