The Character of Leadership by Randy Gage & Jaime Lokier

Randy Gage
Jaime Lokier

Why are so many people afraid to lead? 

In our profession, we continually talk about leadership. We know that everyone who earns big checks owes it to being great leaders (or at least we think so because that’s how they’re presented before they go on stage) –  yet most people who join your team dodge responsibility to lead like Neo dodging bullets in the Matrix. Surely things like these have happened to you:

You call Maria and ask her to please take charge of the weekly event (which implies leading). You know that Maria could do it wonderfully, but she makes 23 different excuses for which she can go to the event that day, but she can’t organize it.

You tell Ben that he’s supposed to give his team’s training sessions (which implies leading), but he asks you to please do it, as he doesn’t know how to do it, even though he’s heard the same training every week for the last 52.

You make it clear to your team that everyone has to give their own business presentations (which implies leading) and 80% of them keep waiting for that day of the week that you present to take their guests because they’re afraid to.

If we all know since we were cave dwellers that leaders have better houses, better food, and are more attractive to the opposite sex – why don’t people want to take on that role?

The answer also goes back to our times of touring the world naked and furry. Since we lived in caves and up to the present day, the leader is the person in charge of making decisions. Deep down, all human beings know that the ultimate decision-maker is the patriarch or matriarch of the family, the director of the school, or the CEO of the company… the leader. I know that when we consciously think about the role of the leader, we envision that person standing in front of the team, motivating them to reach their full potential with an inspiring speech like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. And that’s part of leadership, too, but it’s not remotely the hardest part.

What is truly terrifying is having to make decisions, because decisions imply a responsibility for their outcome.

If the decision is bad, everyone will know that it was you who sent them down the wrong path. I give you the clearest example that I remember about it:

Several years ago Jaime was consulting with a telephone company that wanted to launch a product that is sold through Network Marketing.  They did the compensation plan, the promotional materials, and the website, and in just two weeks the first 400 people were ready to sign up.  There was a meeting with everyone involved in the project in the CEO’s office to plan the launch. After half an hour, the CEO stood up and said, “Very good, it looks like they have everything ready, but who is the director who will sign him?” The three directors present looked at each other and began to stammer: “Ehhhhm, well, mmm, maybe, eeehhhhh.” Jaime didn’t understand what was happening, because he was an external consultant and didn’t know that the one who puts his signature is the one who is responsible for that decision and if the decision is bad, that person is the one who puts his work at risk. Later that day they explained it to me and that day the project died before it was born… Nobody would put their signature.

If you want to be a great leader, you will have to take on many responsibilities.

This is where the character element comes into play the strongest.  You will have to risk that some decisions will not be wise and that public scrutiny will pass through your door. There is no other way to lead. Fortunately, there is a way to make those decisions painless: be very clear about the principles that govern the organization and the total conviction to follow them.

For example: if someone asks you today: “Can you please steal a perfume from the store for me”, it is most likely that you would say no. why?  For the simple reason that you are very clear about the Biblical principle of “thou shall not steal”. Today we take it for granted, but there was a time when that principle did not exist, and people robbed without compunction.

When you are extremely clear that you must follow a principle, the decision becomes extremely easy.

Transferred to our industry, let’s take another example: if your best distributor starts prospecting people from other lines, you will have to make a decision: ask to remove the person who is having unethical behavior and lose all their sales volume or ignore what happened to keep that volume, but damage the morale of the rest of the team. If you are not clear about the principles that govern your organization, it will be one of the most difficult decisions of your career. But if your company is governed by the principle of “you will not steal people from other teams” and both you and your team are clear about it, the decision will be simple. When the principles are solid, the decisions are made alone.

Those great leaders, getting big checks on stage, aren’t there just because they’re great motivators. They are there because they have always accepted the role of making difficult decisions and they have done so with the strength and character of always doing so in line with their principles. How do we know this? Because if it were different, they wouldn’t continue earning those checks. Leadership teams that make decisions that stray from their principles fall apart. In the short term you can grow a network based on pure emotion, but in the long-term networks that don’t have strong principles start to fill up with fights, betrayals, and all kinds of devastating drama. We’ve seen teams fall from 50,000 people to less than twenty because the leaders did not have the strength to align their decisions with the team’s principles…

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Randy Gage and Jaime Lokier
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