Red or Blue Pill Leadership?

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – Morpheus in The Matrix (1999)

 Morpheus Offers Neo a Red or Blue Pill

I’m often frustrated by what so many people call “leadership”. Anything that sets someone above the crowd is often viewed as leadership. Business leadership is frequently measured by fiscal results, alone and non-profit leadership is regularly viewed through a lens of “the ends justify the means”. As a result, how individuals lead their people is overlooked for the perception of results. Real people leadership requires service to the people, not just distinction from the crowd.

Sadly, much of the world is does not understand what real leadership is. I liken it to the red pill vs. blue pill decision for leaders. In the 1999 movie The Matrix, Morpheus offers Neo a choice of a blue pill or a red pill:

Blue Pill

If Neo chooses the blue pill, he will continue believing whatever he wants, living in a dream land until the system comes crashing down or kills him. He’ll never see what reality is. He would not touch, taste or feel anything real – it’s all artificial, but desirable. In contrast, he could take the red pill and discover reality.

Red Pill

The red pill and the reality it presents is not as nice and neat as the blue pill and an artificial world. Facing reality means harder work, more mess and a more difficult existence. Yet it is reality, it is genuine. With the red pill he has the opportunity to effect real change, serve others and leave the world a better place.

Leadership Decision

Leaders must make a similar choice: take the blue pill and go along with common misconception or the red pill and commit to real leadership. For great leaders, the choice is clear. Take the red pill. Fight the battle. Stand up against traditional, outdated and inaccurate perspectives. I choose to take the red pill and hope you’ll join us on the journey down our servant leadership rabbit hole.

Question: Which pill do you take? Blue or Red and why?


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

3 thoughts on “Red or Blue Pill Leadership?”

  1. It seems to me, Ben, there’s a whole lot of purple goin’ on. By that, I mean folks will take the red pill in situations that reward the serving nature of leadership (churchy stuff comes to mind) so long as they live in a blue pill world. Unless a person is willing to give up everything that matters to them (i.e., peace and security, job ‘security,’ relationships, traditions, predictability, and the like), they can never take the red pill. The red pill is not convenient. And it is not comfortable. It is hard to swallow. The red pill calls upon us to accept others, respect others, love others, serve others. Not just those ‘others’ who look like us, believe like us, and live like us, The red pill demands total respect for others, all others. To take the red pill is to see all as equals. It requires tolerance. It says ‘I am here for you.’ The red pill is not for the faint of heart but, rather, it is for the big-hearted. The red pill says you can stand on my shoulders to reach your dreams. The red pill says I will give my life so you may experience more life. The red pill says keep going when the rest of you wants to stop. The red pill says do everything within your power to make certain everyone within your circle has a chance at life. The red pill says I will not drink from the fountain until all the others have quenched their thirst. The red pill says the world is not about me, it’s about ‘we.’ The red pill says ‘make gentle the life of this world.’ The red pill says peace is the way, and it comes through love. The red pill says mi’taku’ye o’yasin (we are one); therefore, let us love. one. another. Always.

    1. Excellent addition, Jack, as always. I especially like the purple pill perspective (say that 5 times fast). And yes, the red pill is definitely hard to swallow. Thank you for contributing my friend.

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