Leadership comes from within


Leadership comes from within……there are so many examples of this we see in individuals, and for me a recent example is the leadership of Michael J Fox, who has shown that even with a terrible illness, he can show true leadership.

My observation started through me recently watching Spin City.  I started from the beginning, Season 1, and have just watched Season 4, the final season for Michael J Fox due to his diagnosis with Parkinsons disease.  A terrible disease that no one should ever have to endure.

I do not know Michael J Fox, and my only link to him is through his movies and TV shows throughout my childhood.

I have commenced reading his books, although his first two books are only available through iTunes as audio books (I would much prefer electronic books through my Kindle or iPad, hint…hint).  I also do however have his newest book in electronic format, purchased through Kobo, called “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future…”.  Right now, as I write this I am listening to “Lucky Man”, his memoir and first book.

When I look at Michael J Fox there are multiple on screen and off screen examples of how true leadership comes from within.

The first observation is in relation to a character he played, Alex P Keaton.

Alex P Keaton represented a role model to many people my age growing up.  The primary reason was although he was focused on money as an achievement, he also held to strong principles of family, friends, application to achieve, desire to learn and grow and he was not driven by greed, but rather a desire to make something of his life.  In recent times, the “Wall Street” mentality, “Greed is good” has seen a major economic crisis eventuate through that motto.  Perhaps, if these people who caused the crisis, had of based themselves less on Gordon Gecko and more on Alex P Keaton, we would not have seen the economic crisis.

Of course, this is just a character in a TV show, but one suspects that part of Michael is within this character.  Again, I do not know him, so my observations are based on what I have seen in my life experiences.

The second observation is how is handling his life post identification of his illness.  Like many people, he has had his difficulties in dealing with it, however he has lead from within and then shown others how to show dignity, how to maintain leadership without needing to be the only person leading, and how to respect himself and others that mean he does not fear who he is, but rather is embracing the life he is given. Just a moment ago in the audio book he even refers to the fact that if he was offerred the last 10 years back and to not have this illness, he would not take it.  Of course, he never really has received this offer, so whether it would be possible to completely disregard it we will never know, however he is genuine in that his life is greater for what he has experienced.  This is the true sign of a leader who understands themselves, there finite time on this planet and that life is about participating to the best of your ability, and helping achieve the goals you set yourself.

The third observation is again a role he played as Mike Flaherty, Deputy Mayor of New York City.  He plays the leader of the team that services the Major of New York.  It is a comedy, so there are elements of “silly humour”, however throughout the series he plays a Leader that is not about hierarchy but about relationships with people.  His Leadership is also not about telling them what to do, in actual fact there are many humorous examples where he cannot even get them to do what is needed to be done, but rather about guiding them through the complexities, allowing them to fail, and standing by them regardless of success or failure.  Again, a leader from within.

The fourth observation is the fact he is continuing to write books, even speak them in audio format, and leverage his experiences to help others grow and achieve.  Of course, he is getting paid, but as I said earlier, so what.  Part of achievement is receiving financial recognition, and no one can ever deny someone receiving that.  I am sure if he really wanted, he probably doesn’t need to write any books, or even more likely read them for us.  Reruns, sales of DVDs of his movies and TV shows and other royalties most likely would suffice any need for financial recognition.  My observation of Michael, is he is doing this because he wants people to read and hear what is happening to him.  Of course part of this is to get people understanding his illness and helping to try and find a cure through his Foundation – The Michael J Fox Foundation. But again, this highlights his desire to not hide from his issues but to embrace who he is, and make others understand he is not abnormal, he is just a normal person, with talent in acting and writing, who has been hit by a terrible illness.  That is great leadership.

The video below is a great example of the character of Michael J Fox and his leadership that he is showing each of us, every day he actively participates in life, regardless of the issues he has, and what fate has brought him in life.


There are many other examples in movies about the leadership roles he has taken, including “Secret of My Success” where he plays a mailroom boy who pretends to be a Senior Executive and shows people that sometimes the best idea comes from the person you would least expect.  This also reminds us never to discount someone because of a title or role, because they may have that one idea that is the next Facebook, iPhone, or Amazon.

Michael J Fox will continue to show us about true leadership, not through telling us he is a great leader, but through not telling us and showing us that “great leadership comes from within”.


Note: The author has no affiliation with Michael J Fox or his Foundation.  However if you can help the Foundation then please go to the Michael J Fox Foundation website.

Scott North has extensive experience in enterprise risk management, internal audit, operational risk and compliance, risk strategy, scenario planning, technology risk, technology business analysis, systems design, financial accounting, and management accounting. Scott is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants with a Masters Degree from the University of Melbourne in Business and Information Technology. Scott is also a Fellow of the University of Melbourne.