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Posted by Philip on 24 September 2012, 12:57 pm in , , , , , ,

Charlotte's Web: a tale of superb leadership

"Wilbur the pig is scared of the end of the season, because he knows that come that time, he will end up on the dinner table. He hatches a plan with Charlotte, a spider that lives in his pen, to ensure that this will never happen." (IMDb)

I read Charlotte's Web when I was just a kid, but it has always stuck in my mind as a great story. Watching the 2006 version of the movie, I realised why: it's a great story of leadership.

Charlotte, the retiring spider who seeks no recognition for her part in saving Wilbur from his fate, epiomises the architypical servant leader. "This term, coined by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s, describes a leader who is often not formally recognized as such. [She] leads simply by virtue of meeting the needs of her team..." (VectorStudy.com)

Charlotte shows all the traits of great leadership — commitment, compassion, persistence, creativity, innovation — as she selflessly works to save her barnyard friend. She affirms and reassures Wilbur of his value. She comforts him when he is unsure. She even succeeds in enlisting cynical, hedonistic rat Templeton, through negotiation and compromise.

And, as she nears the end of her life, she completes two important tasks of leadership. Firstly, she reassures Wilbur who, let's face it, has become a little codependent, that he can go on without her.

Secondly, she leaves a legacy — actually two. Wilbur himself, whom she mentored and coached, and, of course, her offspring.

So, if you have kids, make sure they watch the movie or read the book. And make sure you sit with them and guide them to recognise that it is more than just a story — it's a tale of superb leadership.