What Mother Teresa, Ronald Regan, Sun Tzu & You Have in Common…
Leaders seem crazy sometimes, but is it just they know things others don’t? What kind of leader are you or do you want to be? What kind of leaders do you work with and what kind do you want to follow? Think about it and I’ll ask you some more questions to analyze in the next few minutes and give you two tasks during this quick and thought-provoking extrospection versus introspection.
Now, consider this story before we dive into a journey of leadership mentality. During the Cold War between America and Russia, the commander and chiefs of each nation first met face to face at the Reykjavík Summit in 1986. They hoped to deescalate immense tensions and reduce the threat of a global nuclear war. Michail Gorbachev, the former Soviet Union President (Then called General Secretary) revealed years later in an interview that the U.S. President, Ronald Regan asked him at that summit if the Soviets would ally with the U.S. in the event aliens attacked earth. Gorbachev said, “No doubt about it.” Regan said, “We too.” Now that’s unique for two supreme leaders to discuss, right?
Why did Regan have this alien invasion notion on his mind? Maybe he was just using a psychological tactic to get into the mind of the Soviet leadership or perhaps he knew something we don’t. Perhaps, Regan asked Gorbachev this question because he was crazy, or perhaps his access to top-secret information indicated a possible alien attack was plausible. We may never know, but this story sets up a classic debate on, just how smart or crazy or crazy smart like a fox are some leaders. It takes a very special type of person to rise to top leadership, particularly leaders who maintain his or her power position for a long time.
So, what do you think about leaders you know who may seem crazy and or ingenious and what is their deal? Is it pure genius or their social and psychological strategies and tactics that exude a persona of craziness?
Leaders have enemies, critics, spies, and false smiling faces surrounding them and watching their every move. This could make even the sanest person seem a little crazy at times. Leaders also have “Yes men and women” giving them a false sense of reality by avoiding candid and rational adversity that could help the leaders. They are also under enormous pressure that can cloud judgment and conversely they receive preferential treatment that can also cloud judgment. They face dogma, yet are challenged to innovate. Leaders often study The Art of War by Sun Tzu and subscribe to the principal to “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” They focus on wisdom such as, “Actions speak louder than words,” and “Unity is strength,” and “Delegation is key.” Yet, no matter what they do, pleasing everyone is impossible because it is an impossible task. Therefore, they must try to do what they think is best, tempered by the politics that inevitably influence their leadership style and ultimately their legacy. It is absolute naivety to think, “One day if I get power, I’ll never play the political game.” That would be a recipe for disaster and one’s reign of leadership would surely be short-lived. Unless he or she successfully mastered totalitarianism or dictatorship skills and made their opposition…disappear. Presuming you would strive to be a “good leader,” and help humanity and your royal subjects, it is safe to say that the privilege and burden of leadership would be heavy to carry. As the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Let’s look further into individual leader’s source of power; is a leader either genius, crazy or crazy like a fox? Think of at least two leaders you have had that can fit into either genius or crazy categories. Maybe you are totally uncertain where they fit.
Do any of the reasons you deem a leader crazy fit into these factors you experienced? They… exude arrogance, constantly micromanaging, often verbally abusive, criticize people in public, provide zero praise, makes inappropriate comments, play favorites regularly, lack vision to see ahead, fail to give corrective feedback, overpromises, hovers over people, expects people to work around the clock, lacks trust, won’t admit mistakes, breaks their own rules, fails to connect with people, often makes things awkward and communicates poorly. Any of that sound familiar.
The flipside of crazy is genius. Suspect your leader to be brilliant for any of these factors? They… create seemingly impossible goals yet the team hits them, likes to test people with trial by fire, gets to work first and leaves last, focused hardcore on innovation, obsessed with delivering products and services that customers will love, strives to create an amazing culture, communicates in ways that inspire people, master at negotiation, finds the right talented people and brings them together, resolves conflicts head-on, remembers details quickly and for long periods of time, uses elaborate vocabulary, often articulates anecdotal stories or parables that fit perfectly into the situation at hand, sees things no one else can see on the chessboard of business or life, invents things that are next level or thinks ten moves ahead of everyone. Any of that sound familiar.
Okay, do you have a leader who displays a mixture of factors from the genius and crazy categories? A healthy mixture indicates you may have a crazy like a fox leader. Whatever you are dealing with and however you perceive it, weigh your judgments against the others involved that also have opinions of the leaders. Are there mixed opinions of the leader? After all, we did cover the fact that no one can please everyone so opinions of people vary. How do you think people perceive your person-to-person strengths and weaknesses abilities to lead? It is different when you turn the judgments spotlight onto yourself. Perhaps by doing so, you will see your leaders in a new light that incorporates more tolerance or inspires you to set improvement goals and learning objectives for yourself. Perhaps it may provoke you to communicate differently with your leadership and or be a better leader.
Pick one leader in your life that may have seemed like a genius versus one that seemed crazy. Think about these two individuals. List the striking characteristics of each in your mind and then think of examples you witnessed of their genius and crazy behaviors. Which ones would you prefer to follow? List reasons you label them either genius or crazy. Then think deeper about these reasons and explore them with an extrospective mindset.
Genius Leader Crazy Leader
Introspective: Can you be a better leader and if so what ten things would you do differently? Make a list right now.
Place this introspective list in your e-calendar and set it to recur daily for your review.
Based on all the scrutiny and pressure leaders face, why would anyone want to be a leader? The allure of power, fame, and money probably answers this question best. Then there is the righteous side of the equation focused on those who seek to lead for the greater good. Leadership is often referred to as a thankless job. Some leaders are elected, some promoted, some born onto it, some entrepreneurs climb to leadership positions from their business success and some leaders kill for power. Leadership is like a club where the anointed gain access and rub elbows together as a social elite. This serves to intensify the allure to be a leader. How could anyone turn down an invitation into such a coveted inner circle? Groucho Marx once said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” yet he was considered a leader in the eyes of the adoring American public who loved him as a comedian, writer, stage performer, movie star, radio personality, and television star.
Let me offer you the best advise life has taught me about leadership, “Your biggest inhibitor is always going to be, you. You can either lead or you can follow but no matter what people tell you, you can’t do both. The trick is to keep your competitors, employees, prospects, customers, and even your enemies off-balance. That means, keep them guessing. Don’t share all your ideas and plans and don’t brag or give unsolicited advice. Most people are hypnotized by negative thoughts that subconsciously and consciously play over and over in their minds, and that’s just how it is. Rise above negativity and fixate on all positive thoughts. The world is set up for both good and bad to coexist inside of every man and woman. To combat everyone else’s negativity and their desire to take what you seek, you have to appear crazy at times, yet balanced with poised cleverness. As long as you maintain a superior advantage by outthinking most people and seeking to truly best serve whatever cause you lead then you will be a good leader. Although, some people may say that you are crazy like a fox.” I suggest you make a concerted effort to embrace these three passions: Love to think 2. Love to learn 3. Love to create. Put these in your calendar to recur daily too so your focus on them becomes repetitive positive energy. Focus your philosophy on this; Leadership is best performed when a form of collaboration and compromise emerges for the advancement of the cause.
To close, let’s review words from Mother Teresa, “You can do what I cannot so. I can do what you cannot so. Together we can do great things.”