One of my favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch stands as a great literary model for leadership.
One of my personal hopes is to live up to such an example that, win or lose, to in some way, live like Atticus.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book which are great examples of the character of Atticus I tried to write about in my own book for leaders, Out of The Crowd.
For more information on Out of The Crowd, click this cover:
“Scout,” said Atticus, “when summer comes you’ll have to keep your head about far worse things . . . it’s not fair for you and Jem, I know that, but sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down-well, all I can say is, when you and Jem are grown, maybe you’ll look back on this with some compassion and some feeling that I didn’t let you down. This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience – Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.” ”
“Atticus, you must be wrong.”
“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong. . .”
“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
I must have been reasonably awake, or I would not have received the impression that was creeping into me. It was not unlike one I had last winter, and I shivered, though the night was hot. The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactly the same as a cold February morning, when the mockingbirds were still, and the carpenters had stopped hammering on Miss Maudie’s new house, and every wood door in the neighborhood was shut as tight as the doors of the Radley Place. A deserted, waiting, empty street, and the courtroom was packed with people. A steaming summer night was no different from a winter morning. Mr. Heck Tate, who had entered the courtroom and was talking to Atticus, might have been wearing his high boots and lumber jacket. Atticus had put his foot onto the bottom rung of a chair; as he listened to what Mr. Tate was saying. I expected Mr. Tate to say any minute, “Take him, Mr. Finch…”
But Mr. Tate said, “This court will come to order.” Mr. Tate left the room and returned with Tom Robinson. He steered Tom to his place beside Atticus, and stood there. Judge Taylor was sitting up straight, looking at the empty jury box. What happened after that had a dreamlike quality: in a dream I saw the jury return, and Judge Taylor’s voice came from far away and was tiny. I saw something only a lawyer’s child could see, and it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty.
A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson. The foreman handed a piece of paper to the judge…I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty…” I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them.
Dimly, I saw Atticus pushing papers from the table into his briefcase. He snapped it shut, went to the court reporter and said something, nodded to Mr. Gilmer, and then went to Tom Robinson and whispered something to him. Atticus put his hand on Tom’s shoulder as he whispered. Atticus pulled his coat over his shoulder. Then he left the courtroom, but not by his usual exit. He must have wanted to go home the short way, because he walked quickly down the middle aisle toward the south exit. He did not look up.
Someone was punching me, but I was reluctant to take my eyes from the image of Atticus’s lonely walk down the aisle.
“Miss Jean Louise?”
I looked around. They were standing. All around us and in the balcony the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes’s voice was distant: “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin‘.”
Aunt Alexandra sat down in Calpurnia’s chair and put her hands to her face. She sat quite still; she was so quiet I wondered if she would faint. I heard Miss Maudie breathing as if she had just climbed the steps. I thought Aunt Alexandra was crying, but when she took her hands away from her face, she was not. She looked weary. She spoke, and her voice was flat.
“I can’t say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he’s my brother, and I
just want to know when this will ever end. It tears him to pieces—what else do they want from him, Maudie, what else? They’re perfectly willing to let him do what they’re too afraid to do themselves. They’re perfectly willing to let him wreck his health doing what they’re afraid to do, they’re—”
“Have you ever thought of it this way, Alexandra? Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we’re paying the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple.”