Classic Leadership Wisdom: Rudyard Kipling’s “If”

“If,” by Rudyard Kipling, shows up frequently in leadership workshops and for good reason. Along with Churchill’s wonderful comment about Lawrence of Arabia (see Classic Leadership Wisdom for May 8th), the first two lines of this poem are among the best definitions of leadership I’ve ever come across. (Notice they aren’t just “losing theirs,” but also “blaming it on you” … Can you relate?!) Here’s the first verse and a half, plus the last half of the last verse.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master;

If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same …

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–“If,” by Rudyard Kipling 

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About Jocelyn R Davis

Jocelyn Davis is Principal of Seven Learning, a leadership development firm that creates a lasting lift in leaders' effectiveness using classic books, films, and stories.
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