Ep111: We Are Baltimore

25 minutes

Leadership isn’t about taking responsibility for just the parts you like; leaders don’t get to separate themselves from their organization. And as much as this episode is about the things Trump said about Baltimore, it’s more about good (and bad) leadership, and choosing between a chair and a hand. 

Why is that important for business? 

When you lead anything, whether it be a country, a state, or an organization, you can’t disconnect yourself from the things that are in your charge. When you are a leader, you wholesale relinquish your right to consider yourself separate from anything within your organization. If some part is bad or wrong or struggling, then you are also bad or wrong or struggling. And although it may not be your job to fix it per se, you don’t get to isolate yourself from it. 

This isn’t to say that you aren’t allowed to have judgements as a leader – your job is to identify what is not working and where there are issues to solve. But if you see a part of your business not getting the outcomes you want, then it is ultimately your responsibility. You don’t have the luxury of kicking it in the shins or cannibalizing part of the thing that is your job to raise up. Your job is to always facilitate a solution to make that thing better. Otherwise you are setting yourself up where people are defending themselves against the leader. And as Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. 

There is no amount of team building you can do if, at the end, you don’t imagine you all have the same goal. 

This is where the Zen of the Hand and the Chair comes into play in leadership. If you attempt to cut off the hand’s little finger, the rest of the hand would curl up in a fist to defend it. A chair, in contrast, is fixed in structure – if you chop off a leg, the rest of the chair would notice it was tipping, but wouldn’t move to fix it. The chair would hit the floor. Each organization has to choose if it will be the hand or the chair. 

Organizations are almost always a reflection of leadership’s best and worst traits, and in that way, teach (or even stand for) what they tolerate. Whatever you stand there and be is the message you send to your organization about what’s okay. 

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