The 3 Most Feared Cs of Leadership
How are leaders forged? Through crunch time, chaos, and crisis.
Before we dive into what I think are the most feared Cs of leadership, here are 3 random and fun things:
- How does pixels taste? Coke answered with its latest limited edition, the "Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte."
2. There are glue sticks, and then, there are speciality glue sticks.
For example, the repositionable glue stick dries slower and forgives our clumsiness; the wrinkle free glue stick is airy light and silky smooth; the disappearing purple glue stick is purple but dries clear so you can see exactly where you put the glue. Great for kids and forgetful adults.
3. Gundams are coming to the Metaverse. Of course, I mean, why not?
CRUNCH TIME . CHAOS . CRISES
How Leaders Are Forged
When you read about leaders from works such as Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on Lyndon Johnson, or the life story of Thich Nhat Hanh, or ex-Disney CEO Bob Iger's Autobiography, you will see that their leadership was forged in crunch times, crises, and chaos.
Crises, Stakes, Decisions
The best way to practice making decisions is to make decisions when the stakes are high, and no stakes are higher than decisions during crises.
Once upon a time, when I was at Apple, I made a bunch of mistakes and caused more than 2,000+ angry people waiting in front of our store for the new iPhones. The queue snaked inside the mall, spilled over into the park outside, and made loops around the mall. At one point, the line was so long it took 5 minutes to run from the front of the store to the end of the line. These customers had been waiting for hours. They were soaked in sweat and were very pissed off. Management at the mall complained because the ocean of angry Apple customers packed the mall to the gills. The police came because the crowd was becoming rowdy. My team was tired and frustrated too. They were working nonstop without breaks. Customers were taking out their frustrations on them. All hell was breaking loose, and I was the one to fix it. I had to make the decisions. "What are we going to do, boss?" Everyone asked, I froze, and grew.
Crunch Time, Perfection, Progress
My first role at at Nike was in sales support. One of our tasks was to prepare these massive quarterly tradeshows. Typically, more than 1,000 merchandisers and buyers would attend these week-long lovefest of sneakers, yoga pants, and hyperbolic Nike slogans.
One time, as we were building out the venue for the show, we noticed that the stage that was built was not elevated. This was a problem because the stage would be too low for the audience in the back of the hall to see clearly. At the same time, the audio and visual team could not figure out how to make the finale the way we storyboarded. The lighting and the music did not end the show "with a bang." Then at around 3:30am, 5 hours before the show opened to our guests, the mannequins for the product showcase area finally arrived, and half of them were headless and half of them had heads. I stood there, looking at the crooked stage, dull lights, and headless dolls, and began to accept the fact that even though we were FUBAR, even though we had no chance of delivering the tradeshow I imagined, I had to somehow take the crew forward.
I began to accept that leadership was always a game of progress, instead of a game of perfection.
Chaos, Confidence, Comfort in our own skin
I was a boy scout in high school. One day, our captain asked me to lead my squad to build a floating flag pole. I didn't understand why he picked me. I never showed any desire to lead. I had zero leadership qualities. I was there just to have fun and goof around. Plus, the floated flat pole was difficult to build. I bombed the task completely.
I had no clue how to build a flag pole, let alone a floating one. But I was too proud. Instead of asking for help, I pretended I knew what I was doing. It became utter chaos within seconds. I was doling out directions that made no sense. I shut down any suggestions or questions from the squad. I barked and demanded them to follow me. I was too afraid to look stupid, yet everyone in the squad knew I was hopelessly incompetent. In the end, our pole refused to float. I felt so ashamed and humiliated I quitted the group on the spot. I ran away and never returned.
This haunted me for years. I could not make any meaning out of it. Why did he pick me? Was he trying to humiliate me? Why did he dislike me? How did the squad think of me? What's wrong with not wanting to lead? What's wrong with just being a happy go lucky scout who was great at following orders? Will I ever not hate him? Will this feeling of deep shame ever go away?
It was until much later, when I began to have some successes in leading people, I finally started to understand that confidence, or comfort in our own skin, didn't come from successes. Instead, "true confidence comes from the accumulation of experiences where we survive our own failures. The flag pole trauma let me experience the consequence of pretending. I knew how badly things could turn. I have tasted ultimate shame. Therefore when faced with similar situations, when my lack of skill/knowledge/experience was about to be "exposed," I knew I wouldn't be able to fake it. I knew things could go very, very wrong. I knew I had to explore other alternatives, such as humility, the power of not knowing, or the courage to ask for help.
What about you? What were your moments of chaos and crises? Would love to hear from you!
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Thank you for reading this. I think about leadership & psychology in the showers. I know it's odd, but these topics are important and fun. I hope you find them useful too.
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