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IF. Leadership Lessons from Rudyard Kipling


On several recent leadership programmes Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" has come up in conversation as a nice reminder of some simple and effective leadership traits.

On that basis I thought it might be worth respectfully putting it into our blog for those keen for a refresh, and indeed also as an introduction for those who may not have come across it before.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was a colourful English poet, writer and novelist. He was renowned in his day as a pretty well-travelled and wise man of great insight and intellect.

His poem If is widely considered to be amongst his best.

His poem contains some very nicely worded illustrations of traits such as humility, decency, self-belief. It also presents a general perspective on life that can often serve as a nice reminder for leaders caught up in the froth and bubble of their many responsibilities.

Anyway, Kipling says it far, far better...


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 imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

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!

Rudyard Kipling 1865 - 1936

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