The Mathematics of Leadership
2 + 2 = ∞
Most people will tell you that addition, in the mathematical context, is easier than division. But in the human dynamic, addition is much more challenging. In humans, division is easy.
What skills are needed to be a human divider? A mouth + words.
We see the mindless banter of division every day on twitter, in the news, and in places of so-called information. Most of it is actually just data... useless data, sprinkled with mis-information. In other words, your information diet may be junk.
I met with a long-time client and friend the other day, and he told me that he's doing two transformational things in his life.
- changed his food diet, and
- changed his information diet
His executive takeaway when he quit Facebook... "I feel so much happier." We all have this power, and if you follow my two simple requests below, you too can be happier. But first, without getting too philosophical, I think we should define an important model.
As you progress down through this list (reverse of model), the quantity of items generally decreases, and the importance or consequence of the items increase. For instance, knowledge without action is pretty inconsequential. It can influence through observation, but without action, it's inert.
- Data is the raw bits... like a word, a number
- Information is data in some context
- Knowledge is information that is retained as actionable, usually in combination with other bits
- Expertise is an accumulation of knowledge, with a demonstrated history of success
- Judgment is the exercise of one's ethics, morals, and principles with any of the preceding layers
- Decision is the mental step required to initiate intentional action
- Action is the demonstration of capability
One critical qualification, the model doesn't require one item before the other, as we know plenty of situations where people take action without knowledge. But the model does suggest that actions should follow from an intentional, even if incomplete, bottoms-up flow.
If your main inputs are data and information... and you want to produce effective actions, you must consume a proper diet. If you want to be a divider, you actually need none of this model. You have a mouth and you can produce words. Just let the noise around your daily life fill you up. Consider the enormous differences required between a divider and an expert.
Who do you choose to work with? There's only so many hours left in your life.
What skills are needed for human addition. Quite a few.
- listening for understanding
- empathy to "walk a mile"
- curiosity to explore
- patience to respect
- openness for receipt
- restraint of impulse
- composure to communicate
- inquisitive for expansion
- focus for noise removal
- courage to manage fears
In summary, the capacity for becoming an additive human requires humility, respect, maturity, love, and time.
My inspiration for this article comes from the great additive genius Martin Luther King, Jr. I honestly cannot fathom the courage he exhibited throughout his life, when dividers descended upon him every day. We need to find more courageous, additive people today.
Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to overcome its paralysis with positive action. I often quote his inspirational thoughts because I believe in them. I have tried to live them, sometimes without success.
One of my commonly cited MLK statements is:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
Until recently, I didn't know the origin of these powerful words. King's words, delivered on Christmas day 1957, were spoken just a few years before the true story portrayed in recent movie The Green Book.
This story provides a powerful lesson in how to 2+ 2 equals infinity.
The primary characters learn to love each other regardless of their flaws, to forge a life-long relationship. Much like parenting, building relationships (the fabric and soul of human life) is complicated, painful, and bumpy. On the other side of the journey, however, can be the most compelling reason to be alive... to know the love and respect of another human being.
So we come to my 2 requests, guaranteed to help your human addition.
Request 1: Read the Christmas 1957 speech. With an open mind, it has the power to change your life.
Request 2: Watch The Green Book movie. With an open mind, it too has the power to change your life.
Let's be great at addition again, with the math lessons in MLK's speech and the movie exercised daily. Then, and only then, will we have a foundation strong enough to move beyond addition to learn multiplication.
We choose the experiential method because it is the force-multiplier for a fearless life.
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