Are you a leader? Or just a manager?

3 mins read

In World War II, Dwight Eisenhower trained his generals by piling a chain up on a table. He asked the generals, “If I push this chain, which way will it go?”

The generals would jabber among themselves, debating and offering a bunch of different answers. The true answer, of course, is that nobody really knows what direction a chain will go when it is pushed.

Then Eisenhower would pick up the chain and say, “You don’t push a chain, you pull it.”

He would pick up the chain and pull it along behind him, thus ensuring it always followed in whatever direction he led.

This is the essence of leadership.

When you push people, you really don’t ever know which way they will go or what they’re thinking. When you pull people, you have a much better chance of ensuring their direction.

Power can only be granted to leadership by people who are willing to give it. They will give some power, and then will sit back and watch that leader in action.

When a leader accepts the gift of leadership, his or her first act is to get into the trench and pull. Then the leader should deflect that power back to the people. As the leader defers power back to the people, the people will grant more and more power back to the leader. However, if a leader takes the power and does not reciprocate, that leader will lose power over time.

Being in the trenches means being in touch with the people. Being connected to their people gives leaders the wisdom to delegate power back to the people in the right way.

With her glorification of 100-hour work weeks at the expense of health and relationships, it is no wonder Marissa Mayer failed as the CEO of YAHOO!. She glamorized micro-management control. Mayer will go down in history as being one of the biggest failures in modern business. In fact, history shows time and again how management is not leadership.

People can only be led – and only if they allow it. People are willing to be led when a leader reciprocates the power back to the people. This requires leadership to have confidence, humility, and to be connected.

Leadership is the most valuable commodity on earth. It is also the rarest.

A leader pulls people.


Michael Hiles

CEO 10XTS, INTJ, chaotic good, PDP/11 in '79 (THAT kid), info architect, Milton Friedman, data science, semantics, epistemology, coffee snob, OG hip hop

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