Leading Like Tommy

A young friend called today. She said, “I’m so frustrated! There are no leadership opportunities at my work.”

I’d asked her if she’d ever seen the Heinz Beans commercial featuring the two brothers from YouTube’s “Charlie, You Bit My Finger” fame.

She sighed, “What do beans have to do with this?”

The beans? No so much.

The brothers? A lot.


In the commercial we see that Charlie is not very good at the things his big brother, Tommy, finds important.

Want to play hide and seek? Charlie is easy to find.

Have a favorite toy? Charlie will break it.

Need to finish an assignment? Charlie is no help to you there.

Hey, how about practicing your soccer kick on goal? Charlie can’t stop you.

But the lesson isn’t in Charlie’s failings. It’s in Tommy’s leading.

Tommy rolls with the ups and downs of the relationship. Maybe that’s because they’re brothers. Maybe. But what’s more likely is that the big brother sees his time with Charlie as a chance to develop him; to lead him, to nurture him. How do I know that?

​Well, Tommy gives Charlie part of his dinner in an effort to “grow him up a bit.”

Opportunities to lead are all around us.

Not everyone we live with, play with, work with or serve with is up to our speed or level of proficiency at what we do. But that’s okay if you see life the same way Tommy does.

Give people a chance. Tommy plays with him, experiences life with him and despite the failures or disappointments they move on to the next thing together. They keep doing.

Have a sense of humor. The toys are afraid of Charlie. How’s that for spinning it positive? An attitude like that comes in handy when we talk to others about how it’s going.

Show them. Tommy shows Charlie what area of the soccer goal to defend. He’s probably told him dozens of times. He tells him again. He’s only a little disappointed when Charlie can’t block the kick. He knows that with practice, Charlie will catch up. Tommy puts him in position to succeed, and they keep playing.

Go at their pace. Tommy is older, wiser and can move along at a better pace. But instead of leaving Charlie and his bike in the dust or yelling at Charlie to pedal faster, he comes back to Charlie’s pace. This may seem to slow Tommy down, but Tommy’s goal isn’t to get there first. It’s to make sure Charlie gets where they’re going. Circling back keeps things moving in the right direction.

Okay, in the real world there will be times when people fail and need to move on to something else. But until then, be like Tommy.

As a leader, he decides to invest his time, his toys, and whatever else in the wellbeing of others.

“I get it,” she said “I’m someone’s Tommy!”

Yep, and Mom knows.

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