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a blog by Chris Barrow

Lessons in Leadership - Alice and The White Rabbit

I've spent quite a bit of time, talking about time, this last few days.

Prompting a client to remind me of The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, and his anxiety around lateness.

An extract from Wikipedia shares some of author Lewis Carroll's thoughts on the character:

In his article "Alice on the Stage", Carroll wrote,
"And the White Rabbit, what of him? Was he framed on the 'Alice' lines, or meant as a contrast?
As a contrast, distinctly.
For her 'youth', 'audacity', 'vigour', and 'swift directness of purpose', read 'elderly', 'timid', 'feeble', and 'nervously shilly-shallying', and you will get something of what I meant him to be.
I think the White Rabbit should wear spectacles. I'm sure his voice should quaver, and his knees quiver and his whole air suggest a total inability to say 'Boo' to a goose!"[1]
Overall, the White Rabbit seems to shift back and forth between pompous behaviour toward his underlings, such as his servants, and grovelling, obsequious behaviour toward his superiors, such as the Duchess, and the King and Queen of Hearts, in direct contrast to Alice, who is reasonably polite to everyone she meets.

As an Employer or Manager, your job is to be "Alice".

I really like Carroll's description of "swift directness of purpose" in that respect.

Timidity, feebleness and shilly-shallying aren't going to attract either respect or compliance - in fact, you will be taken advantage of.

"Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"

....says The White Rabbit as he enters the story, inspiring Disney to create the song:

"I'm late, I'm late for

A very important date.

No time to say hello, good-bye,

I'm late, I'm late, I'm late

I'm late and when I wave,

I lose the time I save.

My fuzzy ears and whiskers

Took me too much time to shave.

I run and then I hop, hop, hop,

I wish that I could fly.

There's danger if I dare to Stop

and here's a reason why:

I'm overdue, I'm in a rabbit stew.

Can't even say good-bye,

hello, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late."

Being a lousy time and priority manager isn't a good look either.

Are you an Alice, or a White Rabbit?

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