Do Leaders Need Followers? Maybe!

So, what does it take to be a leader? Can you count the number of times that question has been asked and answered? While many answers exist, this short TED video by Derek Sivers (@sivers) from 2010, offers compelling evidence of leadership.

Dynamite Entertainment's The Lone Ranger #4 co...

Dynamite Entertainment’s The Lone Ranger #4 cover. Art by John Cassaday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leaders need followers.  Sure, you can be a lone wolf – a la The Lone Ranger. However, The Lone Ranger’s impact was limited because he lacked followers to carry his vision far and wide. Contrast that with the young man in Derek’s TED presentation.

The first guy to dance inspired another, which then inspired another and the flood gates opened wide from there.  Now, one could argue that getting people to dance at an outdoor concert is like shooting fish in a barrel.  But, what compelled them to run over and dance with this guy and his followers? Dancing in place would have allowed them quicker access to their stuff. Obviously, people like to contribute to something bigger than themselves.

I don’t intend to diminish the ability of any one individual to impact the world. Sometimes, the sacrifice of a single individual will inspire a movement.  But, unless someone communicates that sacrifice the purpose may be lost. Inspiring others to act will exponentially impact the world with every new follower. The Lone Ranger’s mission could not be fulfilled with followers (aside from his side-kick Tonto). His vigilante approach demanded that he live outside societal norms.  Therefore, followers may have meant that he was less capable of fulfilling his mission.

The point I’m trying to make is that you need to determine the type of leader you want to become.  Do you have a single mission that will be accomplished within your lifetime? Or, will you start something bigger by attracting followers to carry on your vision.

I thought my single mission was to simply raise my children to be good productive citizens. While that satisfies the basic needs, my mission is more complicated than that. I know I cannot guarantee any specific outcomes, but I feel compelled to continue the progress of past generations.  Perhaps, I can inspire my kids to leadership by emulating those traits and helping them find their passion and their followers.

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Moonshine – The Ultimate Bootstrapped Biz

Popcorn Sutton

I am becoming a fan of this website – The Art of Manliness – because it is entertaining and a good source of manly content.

This article posted there chronicling the one year business journey from idea to product launch is truly inspirational.

Yeah, I’m not talking about illicit liquor, but a new cologne by three guys that challenged each other and brought their idea to market.  It takes chutzpa to follow your ideas.  And, it takes more to become a success.  The story got me thinking right away about all of my hair brained ideas.  Most of my entrepreneurial success has really been as an intrepreneur (entrepreneurial activities within an organization) = Less risk and less reward.  But, I have other ideas simmering that may one day allow me to test the more dangerous entrepreneurial waters.

 

7 Surprising Reasons The West Won

Niall Ferguson lists 6 reasons western societies with 19% of global population controlled 75% of the world’s resources.  I think he missed one.

  1. Competition – Many corporations, similar to the City of London Corporation in the 12th Century, along other governments were competing with one another.  Think about the number of western European languages spoken around the world today due to colonization.
  2. The Scientific Revolution – while we all know gun powder came to Europe from China, it was the Europeans that continued to experiment with it and mash together multiple scientific disciplines in order to improve it.  Niall’s example is a German using Newtonian physics to improve the accuracy of bombs.
  3. Property Rights – I think this is probably one of the most fundamental rights in American history that contributed to stability and growth of the middle class.  Even the poorest could own property which might remain for generations.  Though, many injustices occurred over property disputes, those legal protections help the poorest prevail against the richest.
  4. Modern Medicine – ensuring people lived longer, healthier, and productive lives.  Imagine the additional productivity of one person by nearly doubling their life expectancy.  Just the simple act of surgeons washing their hands before getting elbow deep into another person’s abdomen probably saved a few million lives.
  5. The Consumer Society – Henry Ford paid much higher wages than other manufacturers at the time.  He wanted Ford employees to afford Model Ts which in turn kept demand high for his product.  For all the benefits of consumerism, there lurk many dangers as 2008 proved.  The rising middle class in China and India creates demand for high-end western luxuries, but desires in the west for those goods at ever cheaper prices led to the decline of manufacturing in the west.
  6. Work Ethic – Western society’s work ethic turned virgin soil into vast acres of corn, cotton, tobacco and grazing land.  Now the Native Americans that provided the seeds for tobacco and corn to the newcomers were equally (if not more) successful than Europeans at growing these crops.  The difference was profit versus subsistence.  It was the European demand for tobacco that encouraged a strong work ethic.  Niall uses the examples of North and South Korea along with East and West Germany.  The communist state produces markedly less quantity and quality than do non-communist states.
  7. Why? – I suppose you could lump this into the scientific revolution above, but really this is the ability to question authority, as well as, the desire to understand the reason an apple feels compelled to hurl itself toward earth.  The inalienable rights of mankind to desire freedom and reject tyranny led to asking why.  I think some of the basic tenets of Christianity contributed to this enlightened thought.  Even though Catholicism suppressed western society for centuries, once peasants demanded the right to read and interpret the bible for themselves, The Church’s strangle hold loosened forever.

Niall fears (as do I) that the rest of the world will quickly catch up and overtake western society, but it is not too late.  While governments are slow to react and bogged down in squabbles over Keynesian economics, we must act now to prepare our kids for challenges of the 21st century.  Mark Twain said, he never let his education get in the way of his learning.  Join me in teaching our children to be creative problem solvers that bravely seek answers to WHY.

Teach Them To Fish

Thom Rhue (aka @thomatkauffman)  is Making a List about the entrepreneurial teaching endeavors of the Kauffman Foundation and it’s partners.  I am intrigued with everything they are doing including the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).  I aspire to contribute to this effort in the future.

Teaching the world to fish!

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Confident Women Built Here

Just days before my little girl joins our family I am thinking about how to ensure she becomes a future leader.  I just read Marshall Goldsmith’s blog post interviewing Girl Scouts former CEO Kathy Cloninger.

Marshall asks Kathy about the results of a study on the leadership aspirations of girls.  Most were ambivalent about the current command and control leadership most prevalent in our society.  A fact that most enlightened leaders already understand. Interestingly, most of the female business executives and business owners in the US (80%) are former Girl Scouts; as are more than 65% of the female members of the US Congress and Senate.  Clearly Girl Scouts are developing valuable leadership skills in young women.

What else can we do to help our young girls become confident strong leaders?

“Men Don’t Follow Titles, They Follow Courage”

This quote from Braveheart states a universal truth.  Without courage leadership does not exist.  In the absence of courage lesser men assume leadership positions because society becomes ambivalent.  William Wallace encourages through word and deed.  The deeds strengthen the words, as they do with most people.

The example of Wallace teaches us to lead from the middle.  When a lack of leadership exists at the top, this provides an opportunity for leaders to rise up to meet the challenge.  The names of these leaders may or may not be lost to history, but without their courage and sacrifice movements fizzle and fade.

It was my good fortune to visit Scotland a few years after the Braveheart movie debuted.  I went to Stirling Bridge and of course the nearby Wallace Monument (pictured below). An epic setting for an epic battle.  I was seeing that field beneath the monument with the visions of Hollywood battles in my head.  But, the Scottish feel that battle in their DNA.  Don’t make the mistake of comparing the Mel Gibson Hollywood version of William Wallace to the average Scott.  He will quickly correct you.

braveheart movie

“Wfm wallace monument” by Finlay McWalter – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wfm_wallace_monument.jpg#/media/File:Wfm_wallace_monument.jpg
Braveheart

My biggest take away from the story and the movie is, empower those around you to stand up in the face of adversity.  Many people often underestimate their influence over others.  With a little encouragement they will find their voice.  Even those endowed with titles, but seemingly lacking in courage, may yet discover their spine.  You may never know how your own examples of strength will impact others in the future.  Stay strong and encourage others at all levels to be the best leaders they can be.

 

The Hero’s Journey—Applying the Epic to Your Career

As a student of history, I’ve often perceived my own life in the form of a hero’s journey.  This post, The Hero’s Journey—Applying the Epic to Your Career by Jason Diamond Arnold, applies that theme to our work lives.

It is hard to separate our work lives from our lives, but perhaps until we are in work that truly engages our passions we sort of ramble through life learning our lessons.

I watched a CNBC special about Colonel Harland Sanders last night.  He had a rough start as a kid growing up in Kentucky and undertook many roles including entrepreneur.  But, it wasn’t until he was 65 (and broke) that he began pursuing the endeavor he is best known for now.  He took his unique fried chicken recipe and cooking style on the road to convince restauranteurs around the country to buy his recipe and cooking style.  The rest is history.

This inspires me to continue looking for my recipe, too.

“Indie” Capitalism or Back to Basics

Terrific Article by Bruce Nussbaum and exactly the trend I see. I want to capitalize on this for my kids.  Entrepreneurs or Makers are on the rise.  People don’t want to be employees.  While that is nothing new and the whole point of enlightened leadership is to empower teams to take ownership.  This is nonetheless a rewarding path that frees our kids from the tyranny of crony capitalism and mass consumerism.