Shortly after Kirk Douglass passed away (at the ripe old age of 103), I was listening to some of his old interviews on my way home from work. I had been introduced to many of Douglass’ films through my father who was an avid movie watcher. Kirk Douglass was known as a “tough guy” actor who played many strong lead roles, including the lead in one of my favorite films, “Spartacus“. He was also known to be courageous and firm in his convictions off the screen as well. But when speaking in the interview, he rebuked his image of a tough guy in films. He said instead that he enjoyed playing many different roles and emphasized contrasts whenever possible. When he played a strong character, he always focused on the weaknesses and insecurities. When playing a weak or timid character, he drew on their moments of strength and courage. It was finding strength in weakness that characterized his acting and also his life.
As brave as that approach to acting was, not everyone approved. His long time friend and frequent screen partner, John Wayne, once chided him for playing a weaker character. He said that people needed a strong model to look up to and that he could not afford to show weakness. Kirk disagreed with his friend and said that real strength came from courage on many levels and not just being the stereotypical tough guy. Again, it was finding strength in weakness that was key.
As an educational leader, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that we need to be perfect, confident, and triumphant all the time. I don’t think that is what leadership is all about. I think it’s about always doing our best, not achieving perfection. It’s about being confident that things will work out, not just confidence in ourselves. It’s about triumph of the spirit as we pick ourselves up after each mistake. Let’s all learn from Kirk Douglass and always try to find strength in our weakness and not be afraid to share our weakness when we are strong.
“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” – Oprah Winfrey
“There is not time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.” – Winston Churchill
“Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi
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