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What is a leader ?

In the days before COVID 19 when we were flying around, I was half watching an episode of a show on the plane. Half watching is when I am working and have the headphones on with some random show in the background. Often this is how I watch entire series of shows. The strange thing […]

In the days before COVID 19 when we were flying around, I was half watching an episode of a show on the plane.

Half watching is when I am working and have the headphones on with some random show in the background. Often this is how I watch entire series of shows.

The strange thing is that I often stop what I am doing, rewind the show and listen to a particular part of the dialogue that has struck a chord with me. The strange thing is that the show may be unrelated to anything to do with me professionally, but often there is a quote or dialogue that spawns a whole idea or a series of blogs and musings.

My process is that I generally have my laptop and I open a random document in word and type the quote or dialogue out for future use.

This week I decided to write a few articles and I found a word document with a quote from a flight I took in March.  (The embarrassing thing is that I can’t even remember which show I was watching but our dear friends at Google found it for me)

In season 4 of Billions, Taylor is in a discussion with potential investors and was asked about a response to a crisis.

Taylor said “ I will personally be down in muck …. “ 

Her proponent asked “Why is that a good thing “ and continued “In a firefight the infantryman’s job is to zero in on his target and shoot to the exclusion of all else. But he cannot see anything else to the exclusion of his target through the aperture of his rifle sights – it’s a small picture.

That’s why a leader – as much as he wants to fire – keeps his weapon at full port arms and scans the entire area to see it all”

This idea struck me that all too often leaders, especially in a businesses that they founded, forget to scan the entire area. Leaders are often trying to be down in the muck with the troops with very narrow views through the sight aperture.

That said, leaders need to know the details, but not necessarily be involved in the detail.

One idea that I constantly talk about from stage, is the idea of “never asking your staff to do anything that you would not do“. In fact, there is a whole chapter in my book dedicated to that idea.  The concept is parallel to the quote from Billions and even has deeper military and business connotations. In the military, to have achieved a leadership position one must have been through the basics of many other roles that the troops carry out. Being promoted as the leader requires a different mindset, but one that is prefaced on the team (or the troops) knowing that you can do the task at hand (that they are doing) but you are rising to the challenge of leadership. You are rising to the challenges of not firing but scanning the entire area.

In business this is the only role of the leader. It is to understand the job of the troops, and even be a master of the tasks that the team members are carrying out. The true leader is one who knows when to keep his weapon at “full port arms” and understand the various roles and players in the big picture.   

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