Lead Consistently and Constantly
(This covers the fifth chapter from Rabbi Daniel Lapin‘s book Thou Shall Prosper. Each chapter is one part of a set of core principles that approach business and money as spiritual practices, referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments for Making Money.’ I’m reviewing the fifth ‘Commandment’ here. My plan is to go through all ten. You can find out more in this post discussing my thoughts on the book. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, come from the book.)
Leadership is not a noun; it is a verb. It is not an identity; it is an action.
I believe that it’s fairly common, once we’ve entered a professional arena, for us to get the idea that management (those who have chosen roles of business leadership) accept their elevated positions at the cost of their productive talents. Examples of the Peter Principle are everywhere we look. Dilbert cartoons with pointy haired managers dot cubicle walls in most corporate offices. There is talk of drinking the “Manager Kool-Aid” as those people take on the company mindset rather than thinking like the individuals actually doing the work.
I’m guilty of it, and it’s unfortunate, because the problem is nowhere near as universal as it is made it out to be. Being a leader does not have to mean being promoted past your competency level. It doesn’t always mean that your productive skills have withered away to nothing. Taking on the responsibility of leadership doesn’t mean forgetting how to think. You can become a leader and still do amazing things.
So, how do we avoid the curse of the pointy headed boss? What traits should we be looking for in our leaders? What traits should we be developing if we want to be effective leaders? The Rabbi lists four, but I’m going to focus on the first two, because I think they’re the most important.
1. Learn how to follow. This is a somewhat counterintuitive trait. When you take on a role of leadership, your instinct is going to be to appear as powerful and infallible as possible. The truth is, individuals are generally more willing to follow you when your actions are accountable to some group or set of principles beyond yourself. The existence of a greater system will validate your role as leader. I would also argue that this includes having the ability to openly accept rebuke and follow the advice of those who excel in areas where you lack knowledge and wisdom.
2. Cast a clear vision. If you cannot do this, then you will be never be able to lead well. For people to be able to follow your leadership, they need to know where you plan to take them, and believe that you can get them there. You’ll have to be able to speak passionately of your broader goals as well as being able to outline your inch-stones. Giving your potential followers a vision that they will buy into, even sell themselves out for, is key to the success of your leadership.
Now, a few quotes from the chapter that stood out to me:
A leader is someone who has followers. There is no way to be a leader other than by having followers.
How do you acquire followers? First, acquire certain character traits, and then be wiling to assume the responsibility of leadership by stepping into the role when circumstances bring that opportunity into your orbit of activities.
What are these character traits?
- Learn to follow if you want to learn to lead.
- Maintain a clear vision of your goal.
- Confrontation is often necessary.
- Leadership requires mastery of both faith and facts.
As I said, I think the first two are the most important. I don’t believe that anyone can assume a position of leadership without having dealt with the last two in some way. Although that ‘faith’ mastery might be a little tricky. More on that below.
This principle works just as well when you declare yourself to be a follower of a set of principles, and this is something anyone can do. Some organizations try to achieve this end with an honor code or a mission statement. It is important that these not be trite or even sound trite. Remember, you are trying to make it easier for people to follow your lead by showing that you subscribe to the leadership principle.
Something I didn’t mention above. You have to be subject to a greater system that your followers can accept as sound and reasonable.
If facts are all you master, then you will always be valuable to the leaders, but you are not destined to become a leader yourself. The other necessary element is that of faith. […] When I use the word faith, I mean the ability to work as comfortably with something yet invisible as if it were a present reality.
Having hope is different than having faith, but we often confuse the two. One is a longing for a particular outcome to occur. The other is acting as though that outcome is already secured. Faith requires sacrifice.
It is not adequate to merely think positive thoughts; instead you must also actually utter them.
Early in each day, find a quiet opportunity to say out loud an affirmation of faith having to do with your business challenge. It need not be lengthy, but you should state it explicitly and it should reflect your conviction in what you intend to achieve.
Are you in a meeting? Stop playing with the pencil. Don’t cross and then uncross your legs every five minutes. Place your feet on the floor. Find a comfortable place for your hands and keep them there. Talk when you must, sit as stationary as possible, and listen. Be lionlike.
My advice on how to increase your vocabulary and ease of public speaking is deceptively simple. […] Read aloud. […] Pick a book written in the style that you would like to emulate. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln used the Bible. I myself use the works of Winston Churchill.
Rabbi Lapin goes through several practices you can implement to improve your ability to act as a leader. There are more than I have listed here. The ones which involve speaking aloud are interesting, because they underscore the importance of you being able to hear yourself speak the words, though each for their own reasons.
That’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Fifth Commandment for Making Money. Keep looking here for my thoughts on the Sixth Commandment: Constantly Change the Changeable While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable. Right. It won’t be a longer post just because the title is a mouthful, I promise. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.
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