Following in the vein of my posts on Harry Potter and Kermit the Frog, I thought it was time to take a look at good ol' Charlie Brown of Peanuts fame. I hope the younger crowd is fully up on his background, as he's more than just the once a year Christmas special.

Me as Charlie Brown 🙂

It might seem weird to look at Charlie Brown as a leader, but let's look at his accomplishments. For all the ribbing and, well, bullying that he suffered, he happened to be put in the position of leadership and being exceptional often. For instance, we know he was the director of the Christmas play. He was also the manager of the baseball team. And he was his school's representative in the national spelling bee where, strangely enough, he finished second in the nation; not quite the ultimate loser that he's been made out to be is he?

Let's take a look at him in these leadership capacities, shall we?

I'll start with the spelling bee because it was more of an individual effort. It turned out that as bad as he normally was in school, he had a proclivity for spelling. He beat out every other kid in his school, then when he realized he had to represent his district in the national competition, and you know it was the national competition because he took the bus to Washington D.C., he studied hard, so hard that he was spelling every word he spoke. He also wanted to represent his area the best he could; that's true leadership. And he finished 2nd; in any other activity that would have garnered him something special.

Let's look at him as a baseball manager. He inherits a team of, well, misfits who really don't want to play the game. His best player is a dog who can't throw but almost had more homers than Babe Ruth, his 2nd baseman carries a blanket, his outfielders can't catch or throw, and almost no one on the team, other than Snoopy, can hit. He's also the team's pitcher, another leadership position, and he's not as bad as he's made out to be if his team knew how to field the ball.

Frankly, who could lead a team of misfits in any endeavor? Yet someone had to take the lead and it's him. He knows the stats and he knows the strategy. What he doesn't know is how to teach his team anything, as if they could learn it anyway. And he's stuck with his team; he can't fire anyone, he can't replace anyone... who could achieve anything if they were bound by those kinds of rules?

Let's look at him as a director of the school play. Once again, thrust into a position of leadership that no one else knew, he obviously took a crash course to learn how to do it because he knew some pretty standard theater terms that not many people have ever heard. And once again he inherited a bunch of misfits who really didn't want to be there in the first place, couldn't fire, and couldn't get their respect, even though he was the leader. Once again his best actor was his dog; man, I love Snoopy! 🙂

So, was Charlie Brown a bad leader, or did he not have support from above? Since we have to assume that there should have been adult leadership, without seeing any, we have to conclude that adult leadership didn't give him any support. He knew what to do, had the tools to lead, but without support from above he had no true authority. He did what he could to get some respect and to get things done, but in the end, as I've stated here many times, without upper management's support nothing good ever happens.

Years ago I was put into that position in an interim leadership position in New York City. I was put over a group of people at a place where the union was very strong. They were told by their union leadership to not let me tell them what to do, beyond them doing their normal job. I had a little bit of support from upper management, but since they were battling with the union I really had no authority to get anything done. I did sway some of the employees to work with me, but in the end the Senior VP of Finance was so horrible, and the situation so intolerable that I left early... and that hospital is now closed for good; I saw it coming I hate to say.

Poor ol' Charlie Brown; I understand you. What about the rest of you?