Philip of Macdonia, the father of Alexander the Great, said, “An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a dear.” That may be true, but I’ve come to believe that Philip missed the bigger point: An army of lions led by a lion is to be feared most of all, for it is unstoppable.
What’s more powerful than having strong, effective leadership at the top of your organization? Having an organization of lions where everyone leads.
At any Toyota plant, every employee on the line has the authority and responsibility to shut down the line at any time they feel necessary. Quality control and problem solving aren’t left to the titled managers. A woman who spots a problem is expected to lead by calling attention to it rather than allowing it to slip through and become an imperfection on a dealer’s lot or owner’s driveway.
My friend Susan told me a story about the best receptionist she ever met, a woman who served as the “front person” at the company where she worked. On her desk was a sign: RECEPTIONISTVILLE. POPULATION: 1. If you asked her what her title was, she’d responds, “Intergalactic Empress.” She took herself lightly, but her job seriously. She was a leader for the company as its first point of contact.
A cable TV installer I met in one of my seminars prided himself on the many value-added services he provided customers when he worked in their homes, including setting the clock to the correct time on their electronic devices and showing them how to use features that confused them. He didn’t consider himself an installer, but a “home-entertainment consultant.”
A volunteer at a nonprofit, filling in by answering the phones, took a phone call from a disgruntled donor. The donor felt unappreciated. The volunteer was able to communicate the gratitude of the organization for the donor’s previous support, thereby regaining his loyalty. In the end, the volunteer’s sincerity and belief in the work of the organization convinced the donor to increase his support.