Wholehearted Leadership Opinion: Excalibur is your sword, too

Like the legendary King Arthur, leaders are on a journey of discovery that will reveal their true strength and potential

Credit: Courtesy Warner Bros.

A scene from King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Like the legendary King Arthur, you are on a journey of discovery that will reveal your true strength and potential

On a recent flight I watched the new King Arthur movie. I was pleasantly surprised.

Many of us are familiar with the legend of King Arthur to some degree. I was vaguely aware of the story of a beloved English king named Arthur who had ruled with amazing grace and strength. His true identity as the chosen king was publicly revealed when he was able to pull the sword Excalibur from the stone.

I didn’t go into this latest version of the legend with many preconceived ideas because I couldn’t remember previously seeing an epic movie about King Arthur. I did know that the story had been told in myriad ways in modern history.

I also understood that this version had a different twist—one I found very engaging.

Arthur is portrayed as a young man who is completely unaware of who he is. He is actually the son of the murdered king, and therefore the rightful heir to the throne. His father and mother were both killed when he was a toddler by his wicked uncle, who usurped the throne. Arthur was miraculously whisked away to safety down river in a boat the night his parents were murdered.

He ends up being taken in and raised by prostitutes in a brothel. By his own confession, he is the “bastard child of a prostitute.” That is his identity. That is who he believes he is. Nothing more.

Through a miraculous event, Excalibur is revealed, stuck in a large stone, and the legend of a coming king—a new ruler with a kingdom of freedom—begins to grow. This terrifies the evil king, who rules with fear and intimidation. So he sets out to find out who can pull the sword from the stone and kill the one who claims Excalibur.

To cut a long story short, Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and is immediately imprisoned, awaiting his execution. He pleads with the evil king that he’s got the wrong man: “I am no King; I don’t want to be king. I am a child of a prostitute. I have no father.”

We are then invited into Arthur’s journey of discovery into who he really is. He has to choose to believe the truth about himself, and the responsibility that comes with that truth. He must put aside what he has previously believed about himself. It is a journey into apprehending his true identity.

I loved the perspective this film took on the epic tale. A man who doesn’t understand who he really is gets invited into a story far greater than himself—for the benefit of others. He has a choice: will he hold to the false beliefs he has chosen to define him, and live a small life, or will he embrace the truth and become who he was created and called to be?

Do you know why I loved this story so much? Because it’s our story! It’s the story of every leader.

We are all King Arthurs. We have the choice to believe who we really are, and who we can be. We can take hold of our strength, our talent, our giftedness, our “glory” and our potential—as represented by Excalibur—and lead for the benefit of others. Or we can choose to continue to hold onto the limiting beliefs we have about ourselves and keep living a small story with our lives.

By pulling our Excalibur out of the stone of apathy, complacency, cowardice and unbelief, we take up the sword of our potential and begin to walk in our true strength. The truth about who we are and what we have to offer transforms us when we take hold of it in both hands, and own it. We can choose to believe things about ourselves that limit us, or we can believe that which empowers us to make a difference.

You are a King Arthur destined to lead your people to freedom.

Excalibur is your sword, too! Pick it up and believe the truth of who you are, and then live it for the benefit of the people you lead.

David MacLean empowers CEOs, entrepreneurs and executives to dare greatly in his role as B.C. best practice chair for The Executive Committee Canada (TEC). David also writes and speaks on Wholehearted Leadership: inspiring, encouraging and equipping leaders to harness their most valuable asset—their HEART. You can reach him at dmaclean@tec-canada.com.