Leadership Qualities: Lessons from The Great Gatsby
It is no secret that the human race learns through storytelling. Fiction has a unique ability to “hold the mirror up to nature” in a way that an autobiography or other non-fiction pieces can’t. It sweeps us into a new world in which we have no control; all we can do is hang on for the ride. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald gives us not only a heartwrenching story of love and loss, but also some enduring truths from a dynamic leader that are as applicable as ever today.
Through his impeccable communication skills, Gatsby is able to convey his enthusiasm, confidence, and enough trustworthiness to engage his audience—no matter how big or how small that audience is. Gatsby is a prime example of “fake it till you make it.” He believed his story and, by doing so, made others believe it, too.
A personal brand is vital for individual and organizational success. It should highlight the product or service you can consistently provide to your network. Do not confuse chronic self-promotion with branding. Rather, focus on creating a strategic plan for optimal visibility. Perhaps the lavish parties and endless rivers of champagne are a bit out of reach, but what Gatsby did was create an experience in which people with various backgrounds but similar goals could come together. So go ahead and throw a party. Or, attend an event where you can connect your name and face to your brand. Be visible and be consistent.
The ability to reinvent and reposition yourself is an advantageous skill. Gatsby started out as one thing (a poor boy from a poor family) and ended up as a self-made millionaire. While the steps he took throughout his transformation might be unsavory, you’ve got to give the guy credit. Today's leaders can learn a thing or two from Jay Gatsby when it comes to determination, perseverance, and the absolutely necessary skill of adaptability.
Do your homework! Gatsby had a goal (Daisy) and did everything he could to educate himself on her, her likes and dislikes, and he tailored himself (or his brand) to suit her. Even before she had any idea of his presence, he was educating himself about his target audience. If your goal is to attract a particular client, or cater to a specific group, you, too, must do your homework.
5. Self awareness
If Jay Gatsby lacked anything, it was self awareness. He really believed that by communicating eloquently, establishing and maintaining his brand, keeping up on movements of his intended market, and relying on his boundless reserves of hope, that he could effect change. Sadly, he never realized that even after implementing these positive strategies and generally doing the right things, he couldn’t change the reality he existed in. Without a clear sense of reality (including its limits as much as its possibilities), no leader can achieve lasting greatness.
Christina Philbert (@CmPhilbert) is a Higher Education and PR Consultant, Academic Coordinator, and Counselor. Interested in revolutionizing higher education, crafting dynamic profiles, baking cookies, and painting her nails.