A few days ago I shared a story of when I worked in a factory and how, over the course of 8 months, I worked hard and built up influence that was later leveraged to the benefit of everyone including my peers.
And to be honest it wasn’t until I started reading the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership, I wasn’t able to see it as stepping into leadership, and today, as we get into the next law of leadership, (the law of E. F. Hutton) I’m going to share another personal story (maybe two) to kind of make the point.
The Law of E. F. Hutton states, “When the real leader speaks, people listen”
The Eyes Have It: Law of E. F. Hutton
On your regular job, have your peers ever called you “sir” or “Ma’am”? Or have the ever referred to you as “Mister” or “Miss” instead of using your name? And I don’t mean out of being cute or friendly. I mean all the time for everything.
I was working contract security for a company I won’t name and it was a full time job working in a security control center for a rather large company located in RDU, North Carolina – no I won’t name that company either.
As I said, it was my full time job that kept the bills paid while I was trying to start my business business, Echoingwalls Music, and before I went full time into the IT field.
The job entailed me overseeing security for buildings in different states. Though we were in North Carolina, I had to coordinate, dispatch and assist for buildings in Florida, New York and others.
It wasn’t anything too strenuous, just monitoring alarms, emergency response for alarms, clearing hazardous materials, checking access points and so on.
Even on the job, I was always about my business. On my breaks and in between down times I was always doing something to help my business and it bled over into my job.
I was always dressed professionally, I carried myself professionally, and spoke professionally around and to my peers, and as a hard worker I was given a lot of responsibility night after night (It was graveyard shift most times).
After about four of five months, a new officer asked me, “Dexter? Why does everyone call you Mr. Nelson?” I honestly didn’t know. I said, “they just do” and shrugged my shoulders.
For years I’ve had this line where I tell people, “Call me Dexter. Mr. Nelson is my father” because people tend to call me Mr. Nelson when I’m on the job (including peers), but I never consciously thought about it before.
I just did my job as far as I saw.
Then one day there was a “big wigs” meeting taking place in a nearby room and everyone was just a bit nervous and I could hear the “hush talk” about people getting fired and the mumbled drama that usually comes about.
I needed to get something signed by my supervisor, who was in the meeting, so I got up, knocked on the door and entered, said hello to everyone to be respectful, and spoke to my supervisor, got his signature and left.
About an hour after, a client (a supervisor who worked for the client) approached me and asked, “How did you do that?”
I kinda looked at him funny and I chuckled a little bit. “How did I do what?” I asked him.
He said that people were in and out of that room the entire meeting and they were all basically ignored or sent out until after the meeting was over, but when I went in there, said “good morning, gentlemen” everyone said nodded in acknowledgement, they stopped talking and was looking at me, listening to me talk to my supervisor.
He said they stopped their meeting to listen to what I had to say, and after I left the topic changed to me for a few minutes. They were asking questions about who I was, what my role was, what times do I work and the compliments I received were very high.
In a nutshell, he said that I didn’t know the power I had, and that I didn’t realize just how powerful I was or the impact I had on that room, which was a very eye opening conversation to me.
At that point, a client approached me calling me Mr Nelson to relay a message, that I was needed somewhere else. At that point my supervisor made a remark that I’ll never forget.
He said, “You know Dexter, if I didn’t know any better I swear people think I’m the employee and you’re the boss around here. For future reference when a client needs one of my officer’s assistance, requests go through me.”
That one moment in time would shape how I carried myself in the future, it also led to some “alpha male” drama that unfortunately I couldn’t avoid.
Ever since I was young I had a natural ability to “take over” a room. In business, it would be in the setting of meetings and when I talked or was given room to explain things, on more than one occasion people have taken out their pens to take notes.
It’s funny now that I’m thinking about it, but when I entered high school, there was a conflict between my big sister and I because I would seemingly steal the spotlight.
On one memorable occasion she remarked, “great. A couple of years of building up my reputation and in a week you’ve gone from being my brother, to me being your sister.”
I didn’t understand what that really meant then but as the years went by I realized that it meant that the object of recognition had changed. They were no longer relating to me as her little brother, but relating to her as my big sister.
In other words, I overshadowed her.
That commanding presence I have didn’t just get me noticed, it gave me a level of power and authority because when I spoke people listened, and obeyed when I gave commands.
What’s even funnier is that I never really sought power. I was never really my thing, and as I said, it would cause clashes, and once I was aware of that ability that I had, I had to learn to control it.
This is part of the reason why I’ve dedicated this entire year to leadership. It’s one thing to have natural ability, it’s another entirely to develop a skill, and dedication and hard work will always beat out natural talent.
(Although having natural talent gives a few advantages).
Back to the law of E. F. Hutton
As I said, until I started focusing on developing leadership ability I wouldn’t have been able to look back into the past and see where the laws of leadership were shining as bright as the sun.
But there are a few other things I’ve noticed, usually in one of those conflicts.
For instance, I find myself telling people who I’m not.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “being in power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” In those moments when all eyes are on me and a meeting starts, I’ve had to tell people, “I’m sorry, I’m not running the meeting; he/she is.” And in other cases I’ve had people ask me in a confrontational manner, “Who’s running this show, you or me?“.
I never did understand why, until now.
And as I continue to review my past as I’m learning, I see the mistakes I’ve made, but I’ve also seen the progress, and if there is a TAKE AWAY from all of this it would be the following:
Everyone talks about the benefits of leadership as in receiving the respect and people following you and listening, and all of that is great, but there is another side which I’ve learned the hard way.
1. Be mindful that your ability as a leader doesn’t diminish another person, especially if they’re the one with the title. There is a difference between leading a meeting and leading people, and if there is a noticeable disparity there, then there’s a problem.
2. Be prepared to lead. And by that I mean you have to understand that as a leader, people will listen to you, follow your advice, and ultimately give you the benefit of the doubt on anything you say, so you have a responsibility to lead well.
And I know that sounds preferential, and maybe it is, but as a leader, if you’re reckless you will lose all credibility and it can kill your business, but even more than that, it will hurt a lot of others, namely the very people who put their trust in you and take what you say on blind faith.
I know I could have probably gone in a different direction to explain this law of leadership, but the truth is, I can think of no better way than to use my own experiences and tell my story.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate you and I’ll see you tomorrow!
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