Everyone likes to say it. It sounds cool and it’s fun to repeat — when you’re working. But it’s when you’re tired as fuck, had a bad day the day before, or just achieved a great success when that phrase is really tested.
I’ve discussed how your team, when you’re on top, will never be as good as you. Your best emulator will be, at most, 80% as good as you as long as they’re following you. And everything you do, they do. You take a shortcut, and your team will take a shortcut. When you make sacrifices, without saying a word, your team will see and follow your example. And as long as you’re working just as hard as or harder than the rest of them, your position will be respected, regardless of your title.
See, titles are given to people. CEO is a title. Just as is “manger” or “team lead” or “highest-paid employee”. Someone decides — chooses you — for those positions, whether you feel it was earned or not, and whether it be you or someone else who receives it.
Positions, in the sense I’m referring to them in this post, are earned. Leader is an earned position. A group can have an appointed leader (with the title), and be following someone different, if that other person earned the position of leader. When an appointed leader slacks off when others are working, puts his head down when times get tough, doesn’t take responsibility when things aren’t going well, he very well could maintain his title, but he slowly loses the grip on his position.
When you are given a title, your people are always watching you. They will first watch you to see if you actually deserve the spot you’ve been given. This earns you the respect and awe of your group or team. And even if that checks out, you have to keep doing those things to maintain that respect level. Every time your team is working and you’re not, an amount of that respect is lost. When the team suffers harsh conditions of any kind and you’re not suffering right along with them, some of that respect is lost. When the team is struggling and you don’t stand in front, bearing the blame and taking responsibility for making it right, respect is lost.
I watch NBA basketball a lot, and this dynamic plays out all the time (at least as much as I can tell from TV and reading online columns). The highest paid players have titles, but aren’t always leaders. A max-salaried player can sit out a game for “rest” while all the other guys — guys who could never sit out a game without endangering their job status — have to play. No matter how good that resting player is, a small amount of respect is lost if I’m working and you’re not, when you’re supposed to be our leader (as your superstar status denotes).
How can you lead any group if you’re resting while they have to work? My philosophy is that things should be the other way around.
I once read a story about Sean Combs (aka Diddy) where he challenged his employees at a staff meeting: “You see me with all of my jewelry and security… But you know what? I dare one of y’all to come get it. I dare any one of y’all to work harder than me.”
Some may call that cocky or arrogant. Call it what you wish. One thing you cannot call it is a lie. He could do the things he did, and make the statements he made, because he was the hardest working person in the company. And he was also the guy on top.
I read a book by Michael Jordan where MJ said that even when his coaches implored him to stay home from practice, he would show up, sit on the sidelines and eventually force his way onto the court. He knew that the respect his teammates had for him — along with the endorsements and fans and press clippings — was earned every day. MJ said he felt he needed to remind everyone around him, every single day, why he had earned all the stuff that was coming to him.
MJ said that, even during the Bulls’ championship years, whenever some random new player would join the team, MJ took initiative to make sure that guy knew why MJ deserved everything that he had. Michael Jordan — the standard that every sports fan can hold themselves to, whether they play sports for a living or not — had no sense of entitlement. And his record of accomplishment is pretty damn long.
So how can anyone feel entitled to not show up and work? When you have a leadership position, everything you do is a deposit or a withdrawal from that respect account (even if you’re just one person, you lead yourself). Nothing is neutral. Consider that the next time you feel you need rest.