Talking the Lead: “Know Your People.”

Lady Di asks: “why it is people love to take on more than they can manage?”

Because it is the prestige of being in charge than the drudgery of wielding power than many find the most appealing. People often do best what they are taught – by instruction or experience.

One of my favorite old schools stories on leadership was about not taking on more than one could manage.

There was a man who was very good at managing what little he had. If you gave him $500, he could balance a budget and get things done. He often played the lottery, hoping to win like we all do. One day, he won – receiving $50,000. He managed the first $500 pretty well…but squandered the rest and went back to buying lottery tickets a short time later.

So you ask yourself: how come he managed to blow $49,500 yet maximize $500? Well, the answer is simple: he managed well what he knew, and didn’t know how to manage what was unfamiliar to him. Truthfully, one doesn’t go from having a handle on a little bit for resources to managing excess very well. There are rules to the game in each set of circumstances that need to be mastered through trial and error, or guidance from the more experienced…if you can find it.

Now, those among us who can manage both the known and the unknown relatively are our true leaders. I guess this is why many leaders are celebrities in their own right (good or bad), but not all celebrities can be leaders.  Many celebs have stories of crashing and burning similar to the man and the $500 above – they go from the outhouse to the penthouse in an instant and back again because there was a lack of learning how to manage all the trappings effectively.

The effective leaders among us tend to know their people really well. They know how to manage strengths and weaknesses of both others and themes. Part of it means knowing how much to give those who they lead enough to be effective, how to groom others for more responsibility and how to handle their successors/competitors. Yes it is hard to be good at the business of managing others, making such a skill a prime asset to have.

Sometimes, leadership for people is about making the unknown known as quickly as possible so that it can remain under their control. These are often the folk who have ulterior motives or an unhealthy relationship to power and prestige. Leadership under these folks is often a chore because they either don’t know that their style is self sabotaging, or they do and have decided that as long as they can remain in charge, that’s all that matters. Both scenarios are two sides to a very dangerous coin.

So how do we make the jump if we want o be leaders? Well, perhaps it still boils to knowing yourself first and foremost. It is often not about being purely a “good” or a “bad” leader. A good or leader is determined by his intent; an effective leader is determined by how well he executed his intentions.

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