Newton’s 1st Law for Leading

A. Every leader’s action will have a greater-than-equal and opposite reaction.

B. The greater the magnitude of the leader’s actions, the least predictable the reactions will be in variability, strength, and impact on the status quo.

C. Although it is human to want to be liked (or loved), it gets easier to lead when realizing that to be respected based upon both tangible and intangible outcomes that have been led and managed into existence is the goal. Not to be liked (or loved).

Random observations

Over time and after a period of making impact as a new leader, there are generally one of four scenarios that result: 1/ they grow complacent and manage to the status quo because they think they have succeeded for all time, 2/ their will to affect change on constituents diminishes because they desire to be accepted as a peer, 3/ they fail to make short term change and succumb to forces around them and are replaced by the next leader, 4/ they prioritize making long term changes with as few of their fingerprints on them as possible so that they outlive themselves — and are seamlessly absorbed by the next leader.

Scenarios 1 (“I am channeling Kanye!”), 2 (“I want to be liked!”)), and 3 (“I’m ‘game over.'”) are the most common outcomes — at least in my observation of how things work out for leaders. I am a fan of scenario 4 (“I am not here for me. I am here for you and our customers.”).

Why do I aspire for scenario 4 as a leader? It has to do with my long admiration of a Lao-Tzu quote I found on a wall at the Aspen Institute back in the 90s when I was trying to figure things out (and for the record, I still am trying to figure things out):

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu

I have updated it for the 21st century:

“A leader is best when people barely know they exists, when her work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu

I use this ☝️ formulation because it is a hard sentence in which to use all ungendered pronouns, so instead I blend them all together.

If you don’t to know the history of the Aspen Institute and its early design conference, I appear to have found a video about it from a while back over here.