Does your leadership scale?

In economics, there is a term, “economies of scale.”

Its the idea that as you increase factors of production (factories, capital, labor, technology, etc), output increases at a rate that outstrips those factor increases, and as a result the cost to produce a service per unit drastically diminishes.

Its a very powerful concept. The more produced, the cheaper the cost. At companies like Google, “at scale” is the acid test for new products. Can it be made at scale? Can we meet market growth requirements with this product in a way that becomes cheaper to us with time and larger investment so we can make a lot of it? If not, scrap it. Commercialization is best accomplished at scale.

If we think about it, scale is a dimension of leadership we should look for in ourselves as we continue to develop our leadership capabilities. Its funny how easy it is to tell one person what to do, or three or ten? But can you tell 20 people what to do or a 100? Can you scale up without losing impact or thinning your brand message or position statement. And more important can you do this whilst the audience will follow.

There are many of us that are good with one to one connections, building rapport and intimacy. There are many of us that are good on stage in front of hundreds. But few of us are good at both and dancing across the spectrum in between. For example, I did a woods retreat with classmates, where throughout the day we did team building exercises. In the morning, there was a team building exercise that required 3 people, in the afternoon, 10 and in the evening up to 50. I tend to love making connections within smaller environments. At each exercise point in the day, my ability to communicate with credibility was strained as the numbers grew. It was shocking how my articulation had to change to capture the “will” of a larger audience.

Think about where your scale ends in both directions, with large and small groups and practice your articulate of a vision. With smaller groups, it might be necessary to demonstrate openness and authenticity. With larger groups, it might be necessary to be more of a figure head that is sartorial, and charismatic. Whatever you choose, the basic recipe has to work in both environments, hence that’s what gives it scale.

Why Should You Lead?

Its fascinating how often we imagine ourselves as CEOs, reclined like Captain Kirk of Star Trek issuing orders, with the company around us running like minions as instruments of our grand vision. But at no point have we negotiated or made the case to ourselves for why we should be given that respect. We feel entitled because of connections, our fancy degrees or our bloated sense of self and existence, but when directly asked, “Why should you lead?” we fumble for answers. At times no answer at all. I have seen many a people project the confident shell of a leader, bequeathed the ceremony of the title. Yet they cannot pinpoint with clarity and concision why them. You hear phrases like, “I am unique…because I deliver results…”, but these responses get lost in a wash of responses that are exactly like everyone else.

This is what divides great leaders from ok leaders. Great leaders have a conviction that is unflappable. There is something in their gut that rings truth. There is something in their eyes that widens that you want to follow, and they do not have to convince themselves. Its their purpose already written and we are turning the pages.

Put a page with the question, “Why should you lead?” on your refrigerator. And don’t turn it, until you have a good answer.