I finally got around to catching up on the latest Glee episode last night. If you aren't a Gleek, check out the the wiki article on it. Basically, it is about extraordinarily talented high school youth trying to do something a bit out of the box (be in Show Choir) while still navigating the difficult world of fitting in to with the drama of high school.
Of all the characters on the show, I am intrigued by Finn. Some (my wife) say that is because he is the most like me, but I think it is that Finn has been pushed to be a leader of the group.
This past episode, this challenge of leadership was made explicit when the bullying of Finn's future step-brother Kurt (also the only openly gay student at their high school) came to a boiling point. In that moment Finn was challenged by his girlfriend, classmates, future step-father and teacher to "be a leader" and stand up for Kurt.
This to me was where the leadership rubber hit the road in the series. While it certainly would be noble and expected for Finn to stand up for Kurt boldly in this time of need, we also need to think about the hits he has already taken for Kurt and the entire Glee club.
In the series Finn has gone from being the starting quarterback with the head cheerleader as his girlfriend to being betrayed by that girlfriend (who pretended he was the father of her child) and best friend (the actual father). He lost his starting quarterback position by advocating for his friend Artie (who happens to be in a wheelchair) to be on the football team, a move assumed to undermine the football teams new coach. He dressed up in red vinyl sheeting to demonstrate his "theatricality" and stand in solidarity with his Glee friends against the neanderthal football players who were harassing them. He recruited Sam to be on the Glee club knowing that it might not only cost him his male lead, but also his quarterback spot. His future step-father blew up on him for being mean to Kurt when Finn finally blew a gasket and called Kurt a very mean name because Kurt was being inappropriate and pushing boundaries because he had a crush on Finn. The list goes on...
And after all this, Finn is told he should "be a leader" and stand up once more for his friend and future step-brother. Man, that is a lot to ask of a 17 year old kid, isn't it?
Of course that is exactly what is asked of leaders everyday. Leaders take the hits, are betrayed by "friends" and are often forced to make tough calls and choose a side only to be misunderstood by others who don't know the whole story. This is what being a leader 24/7 is about, and Finn lives that. But Finn also lives another reality, in the moment, Finn fell short.
If you haven't seen the episode, spoiler alert. When the physical moment of truth comes, Finn isn't there. The other guys on the club confront Kurt's bully and take him on, with Finn's biggest rival coming away as the leader and the sympathetic champion. When they all gather, the question is put to Finn, "where were you?"
Certainly Finn missed an opportunity there, he should have been with his teammates, standing up for his step-brother. He missed that as leaders sometimes do. You cannot always be present, you will miss some major "crises" moment and be challenged because of it. "Where were you?" is a question every leader will have to one day confront whether that of a team of 3 people at a factory, pastor of a church, ceo of a company, president of a nation.
But the question he might ask back is "will you be there?" Will you be there tomorrow, next week, a month from now, a year? When the heat of battle has simmered and the glory to be gained isn't immediate, will you be there? Finn has and one could argue that what Finn has done is model leadership for the others in the group. I like how Finn is growing into a leader, because I see him growing and multiplying himself.
Leadership isn't always about being "there" in the moment of intensity, sometimes it is about keeping a slow burn, an eye on the vision of what is to come and ensuring that is keep forefront. It is also about replicating yourself so you don't always have to be there. So that when crucible times come for your organization, and you aren't there, you have multiplied leaders to ensure that what must be done, is done.
I know many leaders who open and close their shop every night, who know everything that happens within that boundary. They are faithful and do everything in their power to "be there" whenever they are needed. I admire those leaders. But perhaps we can learn something from Finn's leadership. His leadership empowered Artie, Sam, Mike and ultimately even the lovably deviant Puck, to stand up for Kurt when he wasn't there. Sure he missed the moment of glory, but in the world of high school, as in our world, no doubt there will be future opportunities.