Responsibility before authority

In the authority before responsibility model, you are waiting to be picked and blessed as a leader so that you can tell people what to do.

The responsibility before authority model is different. You don't care about being picked by someone to lead. You rally the troops and march towards a shared cause. You are an owner of the cause. You don't need someone to choose you.

Too often in workplaces, I stumble on this scenario where someone either plays the authority card or the lack of. Don't wait to be picked by authority to be an authority. Rather, take responsibility. You pick yourself because you are doing the right thing. Rest does not matter.

About mentorship.

Assortment of things about mentorship.

  1. Mentorship can come from anywhere. You just need to be open to receive it. 
  2. Mentorship can come in any form. Feedback, advise, help, healthy criticism, opportunity to fail, learn and succeed, etc.
  3. Common mentorship models advice finding a mentor for an area and working with them. And, having different mentors for different areas in your life. That is not the only way. 
  4. On the contrary, you don't need dedicated mentors. You just need enough people taking interest in what you are doing and wanting you to succeed.
  5. Getting people who invest in you is a reflection of your good karma. If you care enough about the world around you, the world will inevitably start caring about you.
  6. When someone is giving an advice, remember that they are doing it because they care about you. There is too much going on in this world and in people's lives that they can easily choose to do something else. Respect the intention.
  7. Openness to receive advice and ego are not good friends. They usually cannot live together.
  8. Every person has something to offer, a thought they have synthesized into a perspective, a skill that they have honed or an insight they have garnered. It can come from any interaction not just dedicated mentor sessions.
  9. Asking someone to be a mentor is usually pointless unless your requests are tangible and time-bound.

 

What you know and don't

I was working with my son on some number sense and quickly I realized a pattern that was playing in his mind - "But I don't know that."

And, we focussed our efforts on writing the problem on the paper and writing everything we know that might help us solve the problem. And, soon he was starting to leverage what he knew to get to what he did not know.

Too often in careers and life, we get stuck in this cycle of don't knows. That is the point. We are not supposed to know everything every time but should be able to get the knowledge by leverage what we know already.

Get to what you don't know by leveraging what you know already. You will be surprised at the results.

Doing less is the way to win

There is a plan. There is a plan B. There is a plan C.

Those are three things.

Now, your team does twenty things. For everything, there is a plan A, plan B, and plan C. Sixty things. Your company has ten teams. Six hundred things.

Of course, this is an exaggeration, but also not. Companies fail because they try to do more and not be good at anything. The secret to winning is in fact no secret at all, it is just to "do less and obsess."

Read the book Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More. It's worth your time.

Brick makers

Higher level abstractions are what makes technology mainstream. Commoditizing anything requires an out of box experience where users don't have to deal with complexity, and things just work.

Computer programming existed in some form or the other from 1842, when Ada Lovelace, worked on the first mechanical general purpose computer, writing the first algorithm. But it was not until one hundred years later, when IBM released Fortran, that computer programming picked up. It hid complexities and offered a simple interface to work with. And, the trend still continues.

Very few people want to tinker. And a subset of the few are able to commoditize what they tinker, creating simple interfaces fronting powerful building blocks that the world is excited to build on. These are the brick makers, who shape the foundation.

The world is built on these bricks. And, people who build things out of these bricks are the early adopters who make technology mainstream.

If you are a tinkerer, ask yourself, do you have a potential brick in your hand that could shape tomorrow in interesting way? 

 

Selling your hopeful curve

When you lead, you sell.

Leading is selling your vision. Leading is selling a possibility of a better future than today. Leading is selling a new way of thinking. 

Leading is drawing a hopeful curve to the future and make it look convincing. But you cannot make anything convincing if you are not convinced yourself. If you don’t believe in the vision you are selling, you cannot draw the curve authentically. 

As a leader, you are a salesman, even if you don’t like that term. But the hope is that you are authentic and believe in the vision you are selling.

We need women leaders who are free

We need more women leaders who are free.

I have a mentee, who thinks she is not good enough, when in fact she is really good at what she does. She has an opinion about things and perspectives that are nuanced. She tells me that she wants to be like me and I tell her that she should be like herself.

I have another mentee. Her manager is a woman who is stressed out, trying to prove herself. She transfers her stress to her team all the time. She makes life harder for the women in her team, telling them that they are aggressive if they are opinionated, and should speak up more, if they are silent. 

I recently had an hour long conversation with a woman CEO around organizational culture, team building, product management, etc. She was awesome. She was humble and to the point and I felt refreshed after the conversation. Unlike a lot of conversations with male leaders, where gloating or name throwing happens every five minutes, she hardly talked about her accomplishments but rather kept the focus on her company’s vision. 

I have heard conversations across the board from women leaders telling the women in their team that with every child they have, their career takes a two year hit. What a load of crap! Your career does not take a hit because of the child, it takes a hit because of lack of support. Let’s solve the problem of support by creating programs where we support life changes (See PayPal's Recharge program). And, by the way this cannot not be a general rule of the thumb. If it is, then we all should be embarrassed to have contributed to this rule.

We need leaders with perspectives, empathy and humility and in other words, women leaders. But we need these leaders to be free and not under stress to fit in and prove themselves at every step. The free women leaders at the top are key to balancing the playing field and making it level so that everyone is held to the similar standards. 

Leaders (both men and women), your team looks up to you. Your voice becomes their voice. What you tell them shapes their world. Tell them stories of hope, tell them stories of leadership and courage and tell them that it is OK to have an opinion, be original and stand out. And, support them while they do that.

Contradictions

Making a living through your art contradicts the freedom with which you can create it.

Shipping your product fast contradicts the amount of time you can spend on iterations and perfection.

Trusting your team to run the show contradicts your ability to do things your way.

Living a life of truth contradicts your ability to offer convincing lies.

Staying late at work contradicts your ability to tell stories to your kids before their bedtime.

Bringing work home contradicts your ability to keep your home happy and stress free.

Focussing solely on customers contradicts your ability to shape the world according to the perceived reality in your head.

Neither is right nor wrong. It is all about which way to lean. Because the moment you lean one way, you start walking away from the other.