The Penalty of Leadership
In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must
perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a
man or in 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
mans work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the
shafts of the envious few. If his work is merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone.
If he achieve a masterpiece it will set a million tongues awagging. Jealousy does not
protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a common-place painting. Whatsoever
you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build; no one will strive to surpass or to
slander you unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius.
Long after a great work has 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 the 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 of 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 great makes itself known, no matter how loud the
clamor of denial. That which deserves to live, Lives.
This text appeared as an advertisement
in the Saturday Evening Post, January 2, 1915. Copyright
Cadillac Motor Car Division. Author was Theodore Macmanus,
one of the founders of Cadillac Advertising firm DMB&B.
My thanks to Myron D. Stokes of www.emotionreports.com
for discovering the source of this excellent piece.