by Royce White

Note:  This is the first in a series of articles on leadership. Click here for the second article

My first day at my first job… I was feeling great. I was the night manager of a telephone sales office for subscriptions at a local newspaper. My job wasn’t to sell, but to manage a room full of folks who spent four hours every night calling people in the county selling subscriptions to the paper. Not sure how I got this job—had to have been more my inspiring nature than my ability. I had zero experience.

The phone room was small and the sales team was all pressed in fairly close together—probably a good definition of “sweatshop.” The age of the people ranged from 17 to 70. It was probably the most eclectic group of people I had ever seen in one small room at one time. There were about 50 people—it wasn’t a small task managing them, and I had zero leadership skills. Worse still, I was infected with DK Squared—I Didn’t Know that I Didn’t Know. This is a deadly disease if you don’t treat it quickly.

As the night wore on, there were few problems—everybody was working hard and making lots of calls. I felt good. This was going to be a piece of cake.

Then, it happened.

Someone’s phone rang. You think that’s generally okay—it’s a sales office—except that these phones were outgoing only. Not technically, but the fact was that the numbers were not displayed and the numbers were not given out. It was one of those, “one of these is not like the other” moments.

Then another phone rang. And another. And another. It was causing the folks not to be able to make outgoing calls—and not be able to hit their quotas—and not be able to make money for themselves. It continued until no one could make an outgoing call. This went on for thirty minutes. Finally, after I tried figuring it out with some of the folks there, one sales person came up to me and told me that a bunch of the ‘younger’ sales people had figured out the phone number bank and were quietly calling them to cause this mayhem and make it so they didn’t have to work.

I made everyone finish their calls and we had a serious talk. Most of the folks were diligent, but there were a good number of them that were part of this—even though I didn’t have a clue who the perpetrators were. After I was done with my tirade, everyone went back to work and calm ensued. But only for five minutes. Then it started again and no matter what I said, it continued to happen. I didn’t know how to weed them out. I didn’t know how to stop it. The lid on my leadership was so low, I didn’t have the ability to lead them from this issue. So, I gave up, sent everyone home, and closed the office for the night. My first day was a disaster. The next day I was demoted to salesperson and chastised severely. I quit within a week.

I didn’t realize that I was a positional leader, but I didn’t have the emotional capital or relationships I needed to make it work. Nor would I for many years—even as the CEO of a fast-growing company. My leadership lid—my ability—was always lower than the position I’ve held…until someone showed me how to raise my lid. Not realizing that I had a lid on my leadership was the first problem. Not understanding your lid is like being a trained flea.

What? Yep. To train a flea, you put him in a jar with a lid on it. At first, the flea will jump high, hitting his head on the lid. After a little while, he will stop hitting the lid and jump just below the top of the lid.  You can now take the top off the jar and he will never jump out. This is much like how we are. We have a lid on our leadership. Our past training, our previous experience, and our current understanding of leadership have put a lid on our ability. The question is, how do we rewire ourselves to learn to jump out of the jar?

We all suffer from a lack of leadership ability. The question is, where exactly are we in our knowledge and ability? Leadership, like life, is all about people—always has been, always will be. Plus, it depends on where you are relationally with each person. Knowing the 5 Levels of Leadership and knowing how to assess people’s personality allows you to lead people based on how they see you. You cannot lead someone well whom you haven’t invested in (operative word is well). There’s an old Afghan proverb that says, “If you think you’re leading but no one is following, you’re only taking a walk.”

In this biweekly column, I’m going to show you how to embrace the best leadership principles and practices so you can learn both how to lead yourself and your family, and also how to inculcate these principles into your children so they are starting at a much better place when they graduate from your homeschool. Even young children can learn the principles of leadership and grow to be good leaders.This training is for you and your children.

Stay with me as we learn to deal with many issues in life with the proper leadership skills. It will be one of the greatest gifts you give your children and yourself.

The first issue will be on Law #1—The Leadership Lid and how to raise it.

Take the day by storm!

Royce teaches leadership with the John Maxwell Team. John has been voted the #1 leadership expert in the world by the American Management Association,, and Inc. magazine for many years and has written over 85 books on personal growth and leadership. The John Maxwell Team is a group of executive coaches, international trainers and speakers, and consultants to business, government, and education. The team has been trained and inculcated with the Maxwell methodology and philosophy under John’s direct coaching and mentorship. He’s also a retired pastor. Royce has been a member of the team for the past five years. He mentors, trains, and coaches pastors, management, individuals, couples, and young people from DC to California in all aspects of leadership and personal growth. He is also an author and international speaker.

Royce is the special guest speaker at this year’s LeaderLife! Leadership Conference.

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Royce White HEAV Homeschool Leadership Series