General Leadership

Know Stuff

Great leaders know stuff. Phillip Kane

July 24, 2020

I was painting this week.  Not as an artist would, but things.  Like door, and trim.

I don’t care much for painting.  Imagine one of your least favorite things to do.  For me, that’s painting.  I suppose maybe it’s the pure repetition and sameness of it, or the having to be in one place of it.  Whatever it is, I don’t care for it.

I can’t paint anything without thinking about Tom Sawyer.  I loved to read Tom Sawyer as a kid.  He didn’t like to paint much either.  It’s why I think of him when I paint.  If you recall, he was able to entice every boy in town to take turns painting his aunt’s fence, 3 coats, on a 9 foot tall, 30 yard long fence while he sat and watched.  He was able to do so, starting with Ben Rogers, because he had a sort of charisma of knowledge.  It was why the town boys followed Tom in most instances; he was, or seemed, knowledgeable to them.  The boys didn’t follow Ben, or Jim or Huck because they were, well, dumb as rocks mostly.  But Tom, beginning with the fence, by proporting that there was high art, skill and flourish involved in fence painting (and that not just anyone could paint a fence), he was able to convince a town of boys to do his work.  Tom’s charismatic knowledge could be found throughout the novel, in descriptions of Pirate Islands and Robber Caves; he was forever saying things like, “you’ll see that in any book” or “it’s so in all the books.”  Boys followed Tom because he seemed to know a lot.  People like to follow people who know what they’re talking about.

And that’s the point for the week.

It’s no longer good enough to get by on looks alone, or the ability to talk a good game, or even to trade on who you know.  The current generation of worker, which now comprises more than half of the workforce wants to work for people that actually know what they are talking about.  And it’s about time.

Arguably many of the issues that have plagued American business in recent decades – from outright mismanagement to ethics violations to the me-too movement have been brought on by incompetent leaders who have been put in positions they were never qualified to be placed into in the first place.  Positions they felt entitled to.  Positions everyone but them knew they didn’t deserve.

But when people have knowledgeable people to follow, quite a lot changes. Foremost, far better decisions are made, because those making them are better informed.  People are treated better by knowledgeable leaders who, secure in themselves, are not prone to angry, Machiavellian outbursts like their insecure, over-their-head counterparts.  Best of all, people learn from those more knowledgeable than them, which is really what leadership should be about in the first place.

Plus, when knowledgeable adults are in charge, they engender trust among those they serve, trust that binds humans together into one connected force, able to withstand greater difficulties and endure more prolonged hardship.  And when knowledgeable adults are in charge, growth occurs which rockets the entire business forward, screaming past competitors still led by “charismatic” half-wits stuck in the belief that fear and intimidation are the best tools to move a reluctant workforce off the dime.

Be smarter than that.  Be highly knowledgeable about what you do.

And win. 

If you like the blog, you’ll love the book. To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK. “Letters” is based on 85 story-backed lessons Phillip used while leading actual teams to accomplish extraordinary things. It is an outstanding resource for those who wish to commit to becoming the sort of leader that people WANT to follow.

To learn more about Phillip, please click HERE.