Want to be a great leader? Align what you like to do with what you have to do, and then find people who will follow the formula.
Recently, I was part of a conversation about the abject drain it would be for me and other people around the table to perform the duties of the typical politician these days.
Be at the center of attention and stand, smile, shake hands, smile, stand, say something about the baby, stand, smile, shake hands, ask for the vote. Rinse, repeat.
This is the stuff horror stories are made of for me. I would be terrible at it and would be terrible supporting it.
And that’s where the story turned. I happen to be in the thick of Robert Caro’s biographical book series on Lyndon B. Johnson. In the midst of what I would characterize as a highly unflattering analysis of one of our country’s more enduring political figures, a thing stands out: LBJ absolutely thrived on the gritty aspects of politics. It gave him energy to see people, to give the same speech over and over and over in an era where taping wasn’t possible (talking about his early days), and to connive and scheme about how to buy votes and steal elections.
I’m not kidding or even exaggerating. The guy was a machine. And, it worked. Further than that, he surrounded himself with acolytes who understood his drive and energy, and were just as committed.
LBJ without his team was just a disliked, lying blowhard who was literally nicknamed Bull (short for Bull****) in college. LBJ with his team was a formidable presence in American politics for nearly five decades.
He did it by thriving on the dirty stuff that other people didn’t, and by building a team that did the same.
Yes, some people just absolutely thrive on what others of us view as drudgery, skullduggery, or even pain. And the ones who are great–even at dirty pursuits like politics–build teams with the same alignment. And that’s maybe the gist of this post.
I’ve written before on how most people want to be great at something, but they are limited by lack of enjoyment for what it takes to be great. Want to be great at playing the guitar? Best start to enjoy sore hands and bleeding fingers. That post, Everybody wants to be a rockstar, got a lot of play years ago. I’m going to take this one a step further to say it’s not only about you, it’s about the people around you, too.
A quote makes its way around the internet every now and then, attributed to a character on DRAGNET from many years ago:
Everybody has a bag. Everybody has a gig. When your bag and your gig jive, man thats groovy.
In other words, everyone has something they like to do, and everyone has something they get paid to do. And when those two things are in alignment, life is good.
LBJ had a bag and a gig that jived. Politics was his thing.
LBJ’s surrounded himself with people who bought into the same thing.
And that’s where you come in. As an individual, you have to manage the tension between your bag and your gig. If you really enjoy spending your time gardening but make money in accounting, you can survive and thrive but I know where your incremental effort is going…into the dirt.
If you really enjoy gardening and your life’s work is a garden center that serves the community, then, man, that’s like rocket fuel. You might find yourself sitting around at 6am writing silly blog posts about it.
As a builder of teams, you have to make the same analysis. If the people on your team thrive on the success of the team, then you’re onto something. If they thrive on the success of some other team or on their own individual success or hobbies, then you probably aren’t on your way to building a great team.
Align your bag and your gig, and then find people who share a similar alignment.
What do you think? Is it possible not only to derive energy from the hard stuff for YOU, but to build a team with the same values?