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Chris LoCurto

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February 8, 2011

Penalty of Leadership

February 8, 2011 | By | No Comments">No Comments

Sent to me by the incredible Aaron West

The Penalty of Leadership is the title of a Cadillac advertisement that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, on January 2, 1915. (It has been in the beginning of their owners manuals for years.) It is a very powerful writing that was written for Cadillac by Theodore F. MacManus. The advertisement follows:

Penalty of Leadership. “In every field of endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction.

When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone – if he achieve a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a common-place painting. Whatsoever you write, paint, play, sing or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you, unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius.

Long, long after a great work or a good work as been done, those who are disappointed or envious continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountebank, long after the big world had acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while a little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced, argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his boat steam by.

The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy – but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as the human passions – envy, fear, greed, ambition and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains -­ the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live – lives”.

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