Two Sides of the Leadership Coin

I remember doing a math project in high school on the probability of a coin landing heads or tails.  The hypothesis was that if the same coin was flipped enough times, it should land heads 50% of the time and tails 50% of the time.  So, the project was simple.  Flip a coin 100 times and bring the results back to class the next day.  Not a single person in the class had 50/50 results.  Instead, everyone had either heads or tails as the outcome more often.  There was never a balance between the two.  I have since learned that the heads side of a coin weighs slightly more and skews the probability of a 50/50 result.  So, no matter how often we tossed the coin, one side always was higher than the other.  (I wonder if my teacher knew that?!?)

I believe that leadership is a lot like that coin.  There are two sides to the leadership coin.  Left to chance, one side will always be developed and used more than the other side.  Without being intentional about a balance between the two sides of leadership, we will naturally default one way or the other.  Our organizations will suffer and our lives will not be what they could be without utilizing BOTH sides of the leadership coin.

So, you are probably wondering what the two sides of the leadership coin actually are.  The answer is rather simple.  They are…leading ourselves and leading others.  All of leadership development can be broken down into these two areas of self-leadership and others-leadership.

SELF-LEADERSHIP is the place we should begin, but it is also the area most overlooked.

Let’s face it.  We’re busy and our schedules are full.  We want and need quick results in our organizations.  So, we assume that the best path to quick results is to develop the people in our organizations.  So we put what little time and effort we can afford into teaching others at the expense of developing ourselves as leaders.  The problems with this type of approach are numerous.  Let’s touch briefly on just two.

  • We cannot effectively teach what we do not value ourselves – the people in our organizations learn from our example.  If they do not see us living out the values that we attempt to teach them, they will not adopt those values themselves.
  • Our organization could outgrow us – if the people we are attempting to develop are able to learn and apply the principles they are taught, then the organization will outgrow it’s leader.  The Law of the Lid* reminds us that when the individual working for you is a more effective leader than you are, problems develop.  They either leave the organization or naturally attempt to assume a higher leadership role than the position that they hold.

SELF-LEADERSHIP naturally drips down throughout the organization.

In working with a group of pastors recently, one of the leaders shared that people had been coming to him over the past couple of months and volunteering to help him in specific areas within the church.  He noted that it started happening when he began working in our Leadership Training group, but didn’t understand WHAT was happening.  I shared with him that what he noticed, what others noticed, and what none of them could explain, was a natural byproduct of self-leadership.  He was changing.  He was learning how to lead and the people were unconsciously noticing a change – a change that they wanted to be a part of.  So, they began coming around him as a leader.  You see, when you focus on Self-Leadership, others naturally gravitate toward you.  It was the Law of Respect* and the Law of Magnetism* coming together as people were naturally drawn to a leader they had a growing respect for and a leader than was stronger than they were.  Self-leadership naturally drips down through the organization.

SELF-LEADERSHIP is the beginning point, but OTHERS-LEADERSHIP is the other side of the coin.

While I believe that self-leadership is where you begin in the leadership development process within your organization, it is not enough to effectively change your organization.  You MUST develop the leadership potential of others.  Those within your organization must grow as leaders and it is the leader’s responsibility to chart the course for this to happen.  If you do not develop others, you will find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated and eventually leave your organization because you are effectively outgrowing the people within your organization.  That’s the second side to the coin.  It is a BOTH/AND not an either/or scenario.

Here is a simple plan to develop both sides of the leadership coin within your organization:

  • Develop yourself as a leader.  Set a plan right now for growing as a leader.  Develop your own personal growth plan.  For one example of how to do this, check out my post called “Growth is NOT Automatic.”
  • Choose people in your organization to develop as leaders.  They should be the people whom you believe have the best potential to develop as leaders and who can best help your organization accomplish it vision and goals.
  • Finally, teach them what you have learned.  That’s right.  It’s really that simple.  If you have a plan for personal growth, teach what you are learning to those inside your organization.  That’s a great place to start developing a leadership culture within your organization.  Eventually, you will find the need to hire an outside coach, but you can begin right now by teaching others what you are learning.

Don’t forget that the leadership coin has two sides.  Use them both to effectively lead yourself and your organization!


*The three laws referenced are from John Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  You can order a copy of his book here.

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