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FOR THE ASSOCIATION OF
CALIFORNIA WATER AGENCIES
(SACRAMENTO, CA), AND
FOUNDER AND OWNER OF
SHIFTING INTO ACTION,
A COACHING AND CONSULTING
FIRM FOR ASPIRING
CLIENTS IN THE MIDST OF
As a kid, I looked forward to watching The Wizard
of Oz. Even now as an adult, I stop to watch it
when I’m flipping through the channels. Recently,
as I was watching the movie, it occurred to me
that the life lessons contained within are good
leadership lessons as well.
If you’ve never seen the movie or don’t remember the plot, it’s about a young girl named Dorothy
who finds herself in a far away land after a tornado
lifts up her house and deposits it directly on top
of the Wicked Witch of the East — the evil ruler
of the Munchkin people. The witch’s sister, the
Wicked Witch of the West, sets out to avenge her
sister’s death. Luckily, Dorothy is protected by
Glenda the Good Witch — who places enchanted
ruby slippers on her feet. However, Dorothy is
still far from home, and no one in Munchkinland,
including Glenda, has ever heard of Kansas. So,
they send her along the yellow brick road to Oz,
the Emerald City, to meet the all powerful and all
knowing Wizard who, they’re confident, will help
her return home.
As the rest of the story unfolds, we journey
with Dorothy to Oz. Along the way, she picks up
three new friends, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man,
and the Cowardly Lion — each of whom must
face their their own challenges on the way to the
While travelling along our own yellow brick
road to leadership, we should remember: ( 1)
we have a road that takes us from where we are
to where we want to go; ( 2) there will always be
obstacles and challenges that will distract us from
our goal; and ( 3) everything we need for the journey is already contained within us.
Like Dorothy, our journey to leadership starts
wherever we are and ends at our particular
destination. We have to know what we want and
why, and be firmly committed to the journey.
Otherwise, when the winds of life blow, we will
be tempted to give up due to fatigue, frustration, or fear.
So what keeps us from reaching our leadership
Oz? The fear of learning that we don’t know everything, the fear of the unknown, the fear that we
don’t belong, and the fear of not finding our way
to our desired destination.
The key to dealing with fear is facing it head-on.
One powerful method is to talk to ourselves like
we would a friend. Rarely do we let those we care
about revel in untruths about themselves. It’s time
that we do the same for ourselves.
The truth is that we can’t know everything and, in
fact, we don’t need to know everything in order to
be an effective leader. If more knowledge is necessary to do well in our jobs, in our relationships, or in
life, the answer is simple — make a plan to increase
knowledge in those areas.
No matter how fearful we are, the future is filled
with unknowns and that will not change. We cannot
and will not know what the future holds until it is
here. We wouldn’t let a friend hide or not pursue
their dreams because they don’t know what lies
ahead. Our discomfort with the future is something
that we can learn to embrace by looking back on
our lives and realizing that we have succeeded and
survived the unknown before.
One of the toughest fears to deal with is the fear
of not belonging. Unfortunately, we cannot make
other people accept us. However, we can trust
that we are good enough as we are. It’s helpful
to remember that this fear is not so much about
our own insecurities as much as it is about the
insecurities of those who exclude us. That said,
as leaders, being self-aware requires us to explore
the reasons why we may not fit in and discover
possible ways to adapt. For instance, if we recently
ascended to a leadership position, it may simply
be a matter of time before we belong.
Finally, there is the fear of not achieving our
goals. Honestly, we have to accept that we may
not achieve everything we set out to do. While
we, as goal setters and achievers, have a history
of achievement, there are no guarantees that any
particular goal will be obtained.
In the end, just like Dorothy and her entourage,
getting to the end of the yellow brick road is about
facing your fears and continually putting one foot
in front of the other. And when something happens
that takes us off our path, it is imperative that we get
back on track at the earliest opportunity. ACC
The Yellow Brick Road
voices whitnie wiley
16 ASSOCIATION OF CORPORATE COUNSEL
LEAD THE WAY