Hiding Your Leadership:
The Jersey Joe Walcott Way of Leading
Former heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott was training for
a fight against a boxer who had a ferocious left hook. Asked
if he was worried, Jersey Joe replied, "Nope. I'll take his
left hook and put it in his pocket."
Walcott's low key, wry, confident attitude matched his boxing
style. He hardly looked as if he was fighting at all. It was
more like Aikido than boxing, the martial art that controls
an attacker by redirecting their energy instead of blocking
Jersey Joe didn't attack. He lured his opponent to him. He
shuffled "the Walcott Shuffle." He created ingenious punching
angles. He feinted not only with his hands but with his shoulders.
He threw a sneaky right hand counter and a counter-punch left.
In other words, Jersey Joe, to better employ his boxing abilities,
hid those abilities. Jersey Joe Walcott provides a lesson
To be a better leader, do what most leaders neglect to do,
are even ignorant of: hide your leadership.
Why would you want to hide your leadership? After all, isn't
a leader supposed to stand out? When you're a leader, aren't
you supposed to be the center of attention, telling people
to do things?
Yes, that way of being a leader is appropriate if you are
viewing leadership in its conventional terms and getting average
But if you want to be a leader who gets consistently great
results, remember Jersey Joe, if only for this simple, powerful
dictum most leaders miss. People are more effective not when
they are "ordered to ..." but when they "want to ..." Having
people "want to" through your leadership is the drive shaft
of all great results.
Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, wrote 2500 years ago: "As for
the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.
The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the
people fear; and the next, the people hate ... When the best
leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves!'"
In other words, the best leadership is the hidden leadership.
Leadership is about getting results, however one may define
those results. If you can't get results, you won't be a leader
for long. But, clearly, you can't get results by yourself.
You need others to help you do it. The "best" leader is the
leader who gets the "best" results through the good offices
of other people.
The best results are tied to a concept I've been teaching
leaders for almost a quarter of a century: When they seek
to get results, they should seek to get more results; they
should seek to get faster results; and they should seek to
get "more, faster" on a continual basis.
(For a discussion of what results really are I refer you to
my web site and the articles section.)
If hiding your leadership doesn't help you get more results,
faster results continually then it should be taken no more
seriously than the notion that the moon is made of green cheese.
How does hiding your leadership achieve these results? The
HOW is in "want to." But remember this: the people's motivation
is not the choice of the leaders. It's the choice of the people.
Leaders communicate, the people themselves motivate. They
make the choice to motivate themselves. When your leadership
is exhibited not on stage but behind the scenes guiding them
to be motivated to make that choice, you're creating the super-charged
environment conducive to the establishment of more results
What is the best way to hide your leadership? Hide your leadership
by realizing the Leader's Imperative. "I will lead people
in such a way that we not only accomplish the needed results
but that we together help one another grow personally and
This has two parts: results accomplishments and self-improvement.
You are never more powerful as a leader as when, in getting
results, you are helping others be better than they are -
even better than they thought they could be. And when you're
realizing the Imperative, you are advancing yourself in the
best way -- by advancing them.
Make hiding your leadership a way of life. Test every leadership
situation against the Leadership Imperative. Build the Imperative
into your strategy, tactics, and have it be a driving factor
in your interpersonal relationships.
Two points of caution. First, don't mistake, or mistakenly
communicate, the pejorative side of "hide." The word can have
a negative connotation: i.e., that you have something to hide,
or that you are running away from somebody or something, or
that you are being secretive or sneaky.
Use the word in its positive sense; you are hiding your leadership
to better realize the Leadership Imperative.
Second, hiding your leadership can turn into a failing if
you don't hide it in a robust way. Hiding your leadership
does not mean living an easy life for yourself - i.e., detaching
yourself physically and emotionally from the people and doing
your own thing. Instead, hiding your leadership means living
a hard life for other people - i.e., working hard, taking
risks, and putting yourself out to promote their welfare.
You will never know how really good you are as a leader unless
you are leading people to be better than they think they are.
You'll have a better chance of manifesting your best leadership
when you lead the way Jersey Joe Walcott fought - and have
the people say, "We did it ourselves!"
© 2006, 2007 The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights
The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's most recent
books are: THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL
and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder
and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. - and for
more than 21 years has been helping leaders of top companies
worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership
e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action
Into Results," at http://www.actionleadership.com
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