“Great Individual Contributors”: the Duty to Lead

I feel a duty to lead. One reason, is that I am compelled by gratitude: I want to share because other people first shared with me. What those people were to me, I am compelled to be for somebody else. So much personal progress hinges upon fresh perspective, and I can deliver that to somebody, as it was first delivered to me. That fresh perspective was delivered at no cost to me, and in that regard, it was grace. In turn, grace begat abundance begat more grace.

When I say ‘duty’, I mean that I am compelled by a purpose larger than myself, I use the word ‘duty’ as a reminder, as a piece of emotional kick-ass to prioritize growth over comfort, because… the people around me are under my influence. If I win, they win.

Recently, Tim Ferriss was on the ‘Ask Gary Vee Show’. They started talking about self-esteem. Tim nailed it:

“You cannot love others fully if you just tolerate yourself. So, if not for yourself, then other people… you have to reconcile bits and pieces inside of you.”

Right there, man. Those are mysteries being worked out in my soul right now, for the exact same reasons.

Here’s another aspect of the duty: if you know something, if you see something, wouldn’t it benefit your fellow person to say something? Doesn’t it stand to reason that somebody needs your fresh-to-them perspective as bad as you needed the perspective that somebody else gave you? It doesn’t have to be the masses, it can be just one friend. Often times that’s actually better. I still say that it is better to write a letter than a blog. I digress. What’s really crazy is that you don’t have to consciously appropriate a lofty purpose: market demand will elevate capable people into positions of leadership. I know that story. Historically, my impulse has been to stay in the background. I am the quiet guy who gets promoted for being reliable and hardworking. A little while ago, I saw a clip of an old interview with Steve Jobs. He was talking about how when Apple started getting big they decided to start hiring some professional managers. That decision was a total failure. From there on, the procedure was to promote “great individual contributors.” These people were really damn good at what they did in the company, and even if they had not previously wanted to be managers, they were willing to take on the challenge recognizing that their leadership would be the best thing for the company.

Look, you may not be wired to be number one in an organization, and that’s fine, figure that out, but you, “great individual contributor” laboring in the background, your promotion might be the best thing for your organization. Somebody needs you to be there. That’s the duty to lead.

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