Lisa Hickey shares some things she has learned while helping to build The Good Men Project.
I love a good Tipping Point.
A phrase made popular by Malcolm Gladwell,a tipping point happens when you go from individuals to small groups to large groups.
The point at which a (person, brand, company, rock star, media company, etc.) goes from small groups to large groups is the point at which they “tip”. Leadership skills, it occurred to me the other day, follow the same trajectory of a “tipping point.”
A leader assesses an given situation, clearly communicates that assessment, and tells others what actions need to be taken. And gets results from those actions.
If you assess the situation but try to take all the actions needed yourself, you are not a leader.
If you assess the situation, and tell an individual or two about it, to get them to take action, you are leading, but on a very small scale.
If you get small groups to take action, you are taking a more active leadership position.
And the point at which you go from getting small groups to take action, vs. getting big groups to take action is the point at which you will be seen as a leader.
Understand that big is relative, in both tipping points and leadership. You can be the best Karaoke singer in Omaha, but if that is your goal, you have “tipped” when everyone in Omaha brings up your name when they talk about Karaoke. Likewise, you can get half of the United States to take a very simple action — vote for you — and become a Presidential type of leader. But the process is the same — individual efforts to small groups to large groups.
As an example, I can look at The Good Men Project and ask “what individuals, small groups, large groups do we have?” And it becomes easy to see the trajectory of individuals to small groups to large groups. The scope of the project becomes the size of the group that me or anyone else in this organization wants to lead.
Us. The Management Team
The Authors and Contributors
Our 700 Evangelists
Our Social Network
Small blogs and small media companies
Large media companies
Large groups of men around the world
In order to be a leader (and, almost as importantly, to be seen as a leader) you have to be able to get all of those groups to take action. And you can’t get them to take action unless you clearly assess the situation, communicate your assessment, and tell them what to do. It’s a “trickle down” effect — if you get, say, CNN to take an action that gets results for both of us, that is an action that everyone below will see, assuming you have worked to build your communication network with those people. You are seen as a leader through actions that bring results from large groups.
You almost never get to be a leader by having someone say “OK, you’re the leader now.”
I was in the hospital waiting for my tracheotomy to happen. I was already on a breathing machine, “a vent” they called it — a breathing tube had stuck down my throat and a mouthpiece that covered my entire mouth. I couldn’t move my arms, couldn’t talk, couldn’t swallow. Was attached to 5 different monitors. Had been semi-consious for days.
And yet that couldn’t stop me from watching a fascinating exchange happening in front of me and applying it my understanding about what happens in businesses. The nurse in ICU was explaining to an intern — first day on the job, an eager young man with aspirations to be a critical care nurse or doctor — what to do. He had already been unable to do one simple action she had asked for — “Get me a blue syringe from the middle drawer in the cabinet by the window.” So she backed up and started from the beginning.
“The most important thing in being a nurse,” she said calmly, “is to understand that there is a protocol for doing everything. And that that protocol follows a very specific order.” She paused to make sure he got that. “You need to always be 100% conscious of where you are in the order of things at all times.” She then went into a couple of examples of cases where the order of things got screwed up. Suffice it to say, it was not what I wanted to hear as I was about to have a doctor cut a hole in my neck. However, as soon as I was back to work, I used that concept to examine whether or not things were being done in the best order to get the best results.
As I told my team yesterday, I’ve been told more than once that my obsession with numbers is “unhealthy”. I also told them not to expect that to change anytime soon. Numbers gauge the health of a person, the health of an electorate and the health of a business. It is critical to understand and embrace them.
So I was pleased to see in The New York Times today an article titled “Applause for the Numbers Machine.” Numbers people are my heroes.
Three groups of geeks deserve the love they rarely receive: people who run political polls, those who analyze the polls and those who figure out how to help campaigns connect with voters.
More by Lisa Hickey: “Why I’m Social Media Promiscuous.”
photo: slightlyeverything / flickr