How to be a Leader: Leadership Math | The Essence of Leading

It took me almost eight years to figure out that great leadership is actually based in mathematics.

How to be a leader - Ducks

The essence of leadership is using your abilities to multiply the effect you can have, through others. (Click to Tweet)

It’s a simple formula actually:

M < I * T

Me alone (what I can do by myself) is always less than what my Influence (training, motivation, encouragement) can do multiplied by a team.

If I can spend one hour and make the company $2,000 or I can that same hour helping twenty people each make the company $2,000, the decision on how I spend my time is suddenly easy. In the second scenario, the company wins by a factor of twenty (and I look really good in the process). Even if they only make the company half as much as I could in an hour and cost half of that in pay and overhead (resulting in only $10,000 for the company), we still have a 5X increase.

The essence of leadership

The essence of leadership is:

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Using your abilities to multiply the effect you can have, through others.

Sure, you could do it all yourself, but there will always be a limit on your abilities, your time, and your knowledge. But when you add others to the mix, abilities, time, and knowledge grow exponentially. In other words, the shared resources of a team grow disproportionately to the number of people you add.

In leadership, 1 +10 = 100.

You don’t need no stinkin’ job title

Leadership is influence, not position. (Tweet that)

Since leadership is all about influence, it doesn’t matter what the plaque on your door says, or even if you have a door.

So, whether you are a new department head, an old CEO, a janitor, or the assistant to the regional manager, you are a leader when you get more done through others than you would alone.

How can you use leadership math today, regardless of your job title?

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  • Matt – it’s like you peek into my head and pull out things I need to read each day. This validates what I’ve been doing lately!

    I have been looking at ways to increase my productivity by training those around me to do things – for instance, I have trained the volunteers who meet with clients to look up things in the database (not change or enter, just look up) and save them interrupting me to look things up for them. What a time saver for me because there are fewer interruptions, and what an empowerment for them.

    Now I’m actively searching for ways to empower the team even more. Thanks for the great post!

  • Working in training and development, I get this. But it’s amazing how many people don’t get it. How do you get leaders to buy into this?

    • It depends on the environment, of course, but the best way is to act first, ask permission later.

      Train and develop. Then let the results take care of themselves.

      If that is too risky…wow, I have no clue. I’ll ask on Twitter.

      • Thanks Matt

      • I think Matt’s spot on. Take the Nike approach, just do it!
        And maybe you don’t start off teaching them how to make $2000 in an hour. Maybe it starts off with showing them a better file system for their emails.
        Use phrases like “can I show you a cool trick I use to get through my emails?” Or “I just learned how to (fill in the blank) can I show you and see what you think about it? They’ll think they’re helping you, but they’ll take away things that help them. Influence. It’s awesome. Great question Jim!

  • By liberally sharing what I learn, and even what I struggle with. Like a co-worker told me yesterday “if I’m not getting something, I know someone else isn’t getting it. So I ask the question.”
    Doing this utilizes your influence to obtain information that others probably need to know too, thereby increasing their productivity!

    Great post my friend.

    • SO true Mark. It took me a long time (surprisingly) to freely speak up. So when I have something nice to say, I say it. When I have a question I ask it. Only when I have criticism do I sometimes strategically withhold it.

  • Influence is the key word here. I have found that my team may agree with me verbally and then go on to do what they think is best, even if it’s the opposite of what I just told them (which frustrates me and makes me think of my toddler’s behavior at home). Being a leader means I have to say “I failed to give you proper direction on this matter” instead of saying “What in the world were you thinking?”

    • BAM! Right on Lily.

      • Of course, right now, I’m more in the “what in the world where you thinking” mode, both with my team and my kids. What do you tell a toddler that decided to squirt toothpaste on the carpet and “color” the side of the refrigerator with a marker? At least my 3 year old has an excuse… my coworkers? Not so much. Vent time over.

  • Laura Johnson

    The only person I have to influence at work is my boss. Hmm…leading up. I have found with him, he’s analytical and I’m great at logical thinking, so I just verbalize my thought process whenever we’re going through something new. If I’m approaching something that’s been around for a while, I come with the approach of “What do you think about…” or “Do you think…” or “When I do…,…happens.” Having only your boss to influence, it can sometimes be hard to tell how “successful” you are at it.
    Don’t know how well your math applies to my situation 😉 at least at work.

    • There is a podcast I highly recommend from “The Look and Sound of Leadership” called “Managing your boss.” I think that would help for sure!

  • Lulu

    The Word is a marvelous example of making leaders. Look at the new Church in Acts. Yes discipleship – leadership – colored with the same crayon.

    • Favorite book for me. Love the training and leadership development in it.

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  • I love math! Seriously.

    I definitely need to learn to delegate more frequently and more effectively. This will help me multiply my influence.

  • This is so true – especially that you can be at ANY level to lead. You don’t need direct reports, if you are influencing others then you are leading. I tend to hold on to things to do myself, but when I let my team at them instead they deliver 10X the return.

  • Isaac Dorrel

    That my friend is the power of a T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Achieves More) Matt, you are quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs to read. Great stuff!

    • Amen to that acronym…and thank you for the compliment Isaac!

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