Save the Beard! A Beard Equality Commission Campaign, in association with the World Beardlife Fund.
I know this is commercial suicide but I have to come out. I have owned a beard for thirty years. I have remained faithful to the same beard throughout this time but I am divorced from the Guardian, pipe smoking, cardigans, corduroy trousers and woolly bobble hats.
With luck I will also become seriously rich after taking legal action against the Sunday Times and Pamela Jack, an Image consultant who stated today, January 13th 2002 that “Personal appearance is important. You should not have a beard – beards are definitely out. And people don’t like nasal hair or hairy ears.”
So, my facial hair is now equated with nasal hair and my ability to succeed in business is clearly threatened by my continued pursuit of a hirsute existence. Is this criticism wise when we appreciate how deeply held beliefs and convictions lead to millions of beards being worn around the world? Is it wise when a well known Secretary of State responsible for the Home Office wears a beard? Is it wise when many successful entrepreneurs of the new school from all parts of our diverse society and the old school too, like Sugar and Branson, continue to wear beards? Is it wise when many people think most consultants talk rubbish at the best of times?
I think it is not wise, but it does demonstrate an important lesson in motivation. Do not stereotype people. We are all individuals and we’re proud of our individuality. Leadership is about harnessing this individuality for mutual benefit. Stereotyping leads to discrimination, but it also leads to total and utter demotivation, if not a determination for revenge.
Just after I had been appointed Managing Director of the UK subsidiary of an American multinational in the mid 1980s, it was filtered to me through the HR department that it would be better for my long term future if I ‘got rid of the beard’. It certainly motivated me. I resolved there and then to get into running my own business as quickly as possible.
I figured that corporate life would always be more about ‘politics’ and ‘show’ rather than performance and ability and the only way out of it would be ‘going it alone’.
Against this, every top sports team in the world will have some ‘difficult’, non-conforming ‘characters’ in the team. Indeed the best leaders, managers and coaches are usually the ones that are not afraid to bring such talents into their team and then nurture, inspire and develop consistent, maximum performance.
The worst leaders, managers and coaches are the ones that want uniformity, total control and to tie individuals up in policy, programmes and procedures. Does your organisation give people room to grow as individuals and to create, to challenge, to innovate and achieve outstanding performance?
How are you going to create an environment of trust and individuality rather than constraint and conformity? Can we help you create and communicate an environment for individual and corporate growth? We’ll leave the facial hair growth out of the equation!