I love my fountain pens. They’re a bit like being dressed to the hilt, in an expensive evening gown. Lovely slingbacks and accessories! You automatically walk tall, shoulders back, chin up. Well, fountain pens have a similar effect on my handwriting. With wonderfully crafted nibs, I daren’t write in a sloppy, heavy-handed manner! So, you might ask, what’s the big deal about fountain pens? Well, in a six-hour leadership meeting this week, the complimentary pens reminded me of an incident that took place a few years ago, and the snobbery around pens as a symbol of success in the eyes of some people.
A few years ago, I attended a meeting with some ‘colleagues’, and I had a pen with which I furiously scribbled. I placed it down for a short while and looked away. Unbeknown to me, the colleague beside me had placed her pen down too, right next to mine.
When I looked back to resume writing, I picked up what I thought was my own pen and continued to write. You would have thought I had committed murder with the response I received from said colleague:
“Excuse me!” said she. “I’ll have my pen back if you don’t mind. That’s clearly not YOUR pen! Do you actually know what pen this is?! Probably not! It’s a Montblanc pen!”
I apologised because she was right; I had mistaken it for the pen I’d been using previously, as from a quick glance they looked similar. Not too dissimilar from the pen in the meeting today. . Then, I was irritated at the cheek and snobbery of the woman.
What is it with Montblanc pens, anyway? I wanted to know. Clearly in her mind it was an indication of her status, and an opportunity to try to demean me as someone not having a clue on such matters. I parked that foolishness as simply her being unnecessarily full of herself… then something odd happened…
‘OUTRANKED’ BY PRICKLY
I attended a meeting with a prickly line manager a while later. I grabbed from my bag the first writing instrument I could find – a lovely Lamy pencil given to me by a dear previous manager. When ‘Ms Prickly’ saw me writing with the pencil, she huffed and, from the corner of my eye, I saw that she proceeded to search around in her bag. She found what she was looking for, and slammed it onto the table in front of her – triumphantly, I might add! She continued writing with the very same pen she had used up to that point. Thinking the whole thing a bit odd, I discreetly looked to see what she had plonked onto the table! A Montblanc pen, no less!
What is wrong with these people???
A LEADERSHIP ‘NO, NO’
Therein lies the subject of my musings for this week. I’m all for quality items, like the Montblanc pen and really believe they can, in most cases, enhance personal performance. As leaders, it’s beholden on us to put others at their ease, and do nothing to make them feel inferior or ignorant.
A status-conscious, arrogant, proud leader is a blemish in any boardroom or on any leadership team. In my mind, those who show off like that have way more stuff going on inside, and the only way they can feel good about themselves is by belittling others.
Yes, I know we are in an era where designer items and status symbols are bandied around as trophies of success, but do you really think these status symbols should be used in this way? No! Let’s put the humility back into leadership and success, for goodness sake, or heaven knows what kind of leaders we’ll be creating for the 21st century!
Incidentally, for a milestone birthday I was treated to … a limited edition Montblanc pen, which writes beautifully. Highly recommended!
Would I go banging it on the table, declaring how great I am or patronising some innocent soul for daring to pick it up by mistake? Perish the thought!
Until next time!
According to Vi