10 Things I Learned From a Year Without Social Media

1. Social media isn’t bad.

Being without Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat, Tumblr, this blog, and other forms of social media has not left me any worse for wear. However, there were times during my year-long hiatus when I missed feeling informed about friends, family, and acquaintances I have not bothered to actually reach out to. I also missed seeing local business events and finding cool things to do on the weekend.

2. Social media isn’t good either.

Twitter’s new feed hasn’t made me a better person and looking at pictures of famous athletes on Instagram hasn’t helped my body image. Aside from business use, it seems to me social media exists for two things: bragging and complaining.

3. Almost no one missed me.

In a world of constant flux and short attention spans, we are just not as important as we think we are… to everyone else. And here I thought America was hinging on my latest movie review or insightful philosophical introspection. I mean, it’s not like with me absent on FaceBook to challenge bad ideas America went to… hell… in… a handbasket… is it?

4. I didn’t miss you, either.

No offense. I love my friends and family–well, in a mostly congenial way, at least. I did not miss seeing pictures of drunken stupidity, incomprehensible political opinions, fake news, click bait, Bible quotes, chain letters, obscure rants, and pleas for random charities I’ve never heard of. In fact, I found that fewer things annoyed me while I was away from social media. No politics; no Idiocracy. (Know politics; know Idiocracy–sorry, couldn’t resist.)

5. Social media is great for finding stuff to do.

This is the thing I missed most, actually. Facebook is probably the number one way Nicole and I find interesting things to do on the weekend. Better than friends is subscribing to all of your favorite local businesses and restaurants! (Sorry friends. I didn’t not mean that. I love you guys.)

6. Standing in line without social media is still boring.

I thought without being able to scroll through my feeds while waiting at the checkout, I would think about important work matters or contemplate life, or engage with people in line, or just be present in the world. Instead, I found there is not enough time and attention to become lost in thought or solve problems in line. People around me are avoiding eye contact by scrolling through their phones. Instead of being present, I just waited more impatiently, reading celebrity headlines. Social media is actually more fun than not talking to anyone.

7. I understand why parents find watching kids play with their phones so annoying.

Sometimes, while on my social media hiatus, Nicole or one of my friends would scroll through their feed while I sat there doing nothing. It is super annoying but not because it is socially impolite like old people rant about. It is 100% FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I am just bored in those moments and I don’t want to be bored alone. It feels like the other person is doing something more important and fun than being bored alone with me. How dare they?

8. I don’t feel less connected to the world.

Turns out, there are many outlets and ways to find information outside of the Twitters. I used Google news to stay depressed and cynical. I sometimes checked into Meetup to ensure I didn’t lose any FOMO opportunities. I hung out with friends when I wanted to see people make bad decisions that I could laugh about later. My life felt no less connected without social media.

9. I am less angry over fewer things.

I love my friends, coworkers, and family–that’s why they are in my life–but I found I actually like people more when I know less about them. I guess I’m an optimist but in my mind I see the best version of people I can muster. My friends are rational, reasonable, respectful, sane people… and then I see their tweets.

10. I spend more time “in the moment”.

Being present is good when the present is beautiful or miraculous. It’s just that most moments suck. Most moments are boring and unremarkable. Think about the insane percentage of your life spent waiting… in line, for pages to load, for the bathroom, for commercials to end, at red lights, looking in the fridge, pooping… It’s great to be more present, but some presents are with skipping. Even endlessly scrolling through Facebook is better than sitting at the DMV with nothing else to do.


Your Big 3 Changes This Year

New Year’s resolutions do not mean much to me since I don’t celebrate holidays. I have the freedom (and responsibility) to transform my life at any time, not just when a calendar flips. Here are 3 big experiments I am working on this year…

1.  Leaving Social Media Behind.

This is a big challenge for me, especially since I rely on social media to help distribute blog content. Still, I find Facebook and other services are not contributing to my life. If anything, they offer collections of complaints and negativity from people I honestly do not know well. I complain enough for everyone in my life. There is no need for additional support from Facebook “friends”.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social feeds, I fill time with things like reading and actually listening to people. It is harder than it sounds. I am used to half-listening while perusing memes. Now, I am relearning how to become comfortable with being bored.

Almost all creativity, I think, starts with boredom, with letting our minds wander.

2. Embracing Creativity.

I have all but abandoned my creative side in my quest to be a better leader, thinker, and blogger. I used to write poetry (you can read some of it here) and fancied myself a burgeoning novelist. I am not a good fiction writer, though. I want to shore up that part of my life and explore creativity with a bit more maturity.

Both sides of the intellect are important to me: creativity and logic. I bet I will bring better, more innovative ideas to leadership and business challenges by reuniting with my creative side.

3. Loving my body.

I know it is cliché. We are encouraged to love our bodies. For me, this does not mean unconditionally. Especially since I value my mind, I am not happy with my excess weight and the sluggishness it brings. My mind resides in my body. Therefore, having a sluggish body means having a sluggish mind. How much faster and better will I think when my body is running properly?

When we moved to Tampa, I assumed having summer year round meant more physical activity and easily dropping 20 or 30 pounds. It didn’t work that way. Nicole and I are more physically active year-round but vegan options are not as healthy or plentiful as in Grand Rapids and Detroit. That was a surprise, but the bigger surprise is I have not lost a pound after living here 2 years and being more active. Instead, I have gained a couple of injuries my extra luggage doesn’t help with.

I am learning about body alignment and how our bones and muscles are designed to bear loads. I saw a specialist to help with Achilles Tendon pain. Jen Hoffman is an alignment and movement specialist with her own short, weekly podcast, which I recommend. You can check out her Healthy Moving website here. Jen taught me how our muscles are attached to each other, creating a domino effect when something goes wrong. To help with my Achilles pain, for example, I am actually working on my Psoas (a muscle in my chest…to help with my foot pain–it’s all connected).

I don’t believe in diets and I hate gyms. That means, for me the path to success with health is through education and lifestyle transformation.

I am focusing on better alignment and eating better (and less) food. I am also experimenting with eating at different times (I used to eat dinner about an hour before bed). Being comfortable with feeling hungry is a struggle for me, as well, so I am embracing that feeling more often. I know those 20 pounds won’t drop fast but I’m not giving up until my body feels great again. Plus, I’m getting older, which means I lose muscle and bone mass faster than I used to.


Those are my current 3 big life experiments. They should carry me well into next year, when I will create more experiments. Living an experimental life is probably the best choice I have made, and one I encourage anyone to embrace. What experiments will you run in your life this year?


What Are You Doing Today?

Maybe the most important thing we do in life is change.

If you are here and not growing, not learning, not transforming the world around you, then what will be left of you when you are gone? Fame, fortune, and history are all eventually washed from the shores of Time. There will be a day when those who seem to have surpassed history–Aristotle, Beethoven, Jesus, for example–when even those names are no longer familiar to anyone’s tongue.

If, in time, Time cleans the slate of all marks, all contribution… then the only time that matters for any of us is Now. The marks we leave on the world may be fleeting in the future but now they matter. Now.

The question you are left with, then, is: What are you doing today?

What are you doing today to matter in your own life?

What are you doing today to matter to somebody, even if that somebody is you?

What are you doing today to make your world a little better?

What are you doing today… that you will remember tomorrow… if you are lucky enough to see it?


Why I Left Social Media Behind

I am dropping off Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, and most other social media platforms.

I know many people will not only relate to my reasons, but they might even applaud my decision (if only silently). I hope this experiment gives you some thought to the impact of social media and what value it brings to your life.

I am calling out Facebook here because it is easier than listing every platform, and it is the one I use most, as well as the biggest, easiest target. Think of “Facebook” as any social media service, though. I am talking about all of them.

Around 2005, I left cable television (hold on–this relates to the social media thing, I promise).

Watching TV stole months from my life. Time slipped away while I sat and watched it go each day. TV became my way of turning my brain off instead of engaging with the world. I found myself sitting to watch a show, and then channel surfing between shows, and then, before I knew it, half a day was gone. I didn’t even watch anything all the way through. That time was wasted. I learned nothing. I thought nothing. I did nothing. I might as well have been nothing, invisible to the world for the time spent staring mindlessly at a screen.

Dropping cable in favor of curated content from the internet or no content at all was a great decision. When I watch TV now, it is only when I actively choose to do so and I am engaged in the content. TV is no longer background noise to all my conversations. Instead, I listen to the person speaking rather than divide my attention between the person and commercials designed to steal my attention.

Facebook has slowly filled the gap cable television left. It has become the thing I do to avoid thinking when I am bored, scrolling mindlessly through my feed.

There are 5 real reasons I use Facebook and other social media and, except for one, they are all reasons I should reconsider…

1. Distribute my blog. This is the main reason I am on social media. Most of my readers find this blog and A Couple Vegans (which I write with Nicole) through Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Moving away from social media means damaging my audience size and reach. That is scary. I have built this blog over roughly 10 years to amass around 4,000 subscribers. Admittedly, not much compared to bigger brands or names, but I never chased an audience or marketed this blog. Still, only about 200 readers consistently visit MichaelSalamey.com (maybe the rest are subscribed via email but–how many email subscriptions do you actually read each week?). A Couple Vegans is only a few months old and only has a handful of subscribers itself (about a hundred so far–also with no marketing other than word of mouth).

So… for you 300 or so people consistently visiting my blog(s), you might be the only people I am writing to in the future. Thanks for subscribing, by the way, and for sharing the posts you like. You are my only advertising.

2. I use social media to have meaningless relationships with people I do not want to have actual contact with in real life. That sounds bad but it is not a bad thing. Facebook allows me to exist on the periphery of the lives of people I almost care about… but not enough to actually engage with face-to-face. For someone like me, this is of great benefit.

As a slightly sociopathic but high-functioning ambivert, I am friendly to everybody… but, to be honest, I do not relate to most people. I am not even sure I like most people. In fact, only one or two people have open access to my time. Other than Nicole, nobody hangs out with me regularly.

Socially speaking, maybe that is pathetic. It is not you, though. It’s me.

At the risk of sounding (more) egotistical, perhaps I am that rare thing everyone believes themselves to be, but almost no one is… a man who thinks for himself.

My values, philosophy, beliefs, moral code, and system of ethics rarely integrate with those of others. Actually… never, so far. But I suspect that is why people read my blog–you can expect a unique view of things. In my personal life, I have been told no one can live up to my standards. So maybe it is not that I do not like most people. Maybe it is that I have yet to meet people who are more like me.

Living a life where the common ground I have with most people amounts to polite tolerance of each other, honestly, is lonely for me. I wish I could be dumber or smarter, instead of in this middle ground between average and almost-greatness… floating in some purgatory, unable to feel part of either mass popularity or eccentric genius.

Woe is me. First World problems. The point is, Facebook is a great way for some people to feel involved in the world without actually having to BE involved in the world. That is a mostly good thing but it is something I can use less of.

3. I stalk people and popular news stories. The same curiosity that drives people to the zoo drives me to keep up on news and social circles. We visit the zoo expecting to see elephants in their natural habitat, but instead see morbidly depressed animals slowly pacing or pooping. Part of us yearns to hear the elephant’s trumpet or watch a lion charge across the plains. Similarly, Facebook delivers less on its promise and more on the mundanity of our lives.

Social media updates are about what someone ate, aspirational quotes the posters have never incorporated into their lives, open displays of the obscure relationship some people have with their faith and binge-drinking. People check-in from whenever they are standing in line, or spout the bizarrely irrational political or dogmatic views they have. Some people insist on sharing their ignorance with the world. It’s confounding, but I am also probably one of them.

Still, I am too often disappointed when I see someone’s Facebook feed. I liked them before knowing their goofball endorsements of products or illogical values. It was better when I could assume they were, on most levels, rational.

4. To learn about local events. Social media is helpful for this. Nicole and I do a lot of cool things because of events posted on Facebook. Another plus of leaving it behind, though, is I might save money by not knowing about most events.

5. I use social media to pass time and avoid human interaction. It is easier–preferable, even–to avoid engaging strangers while standing in line or waiting for food. Instead, I can pretend that scanning short, mostly irrelevant articles or updates is extraordinarily important right at that moment. While waiting to have my groceries scanned, I stare at my phone like I am reading my secret agent mission dossier or studying up on quantum physics. I’m actually just looking at Caturday memes.

We like to think that “catching up on Facebook” is the same as “catching up with friends” but it is not the same. I must have an investment in someone’s life to “catch up” on their life. People share superficial thoughts, vague requests for prayers about problems I don’t understand for people I do not know (I love the term for this: “Vaguebooking”). We share memes and sensationalized news stories. That is not catching up with friends. That is walking through conversations at a dinner party… except without dinner or a party, or anywhere to go.


What will I do when I am bored now?

Those 5 things are not contributing enough to me, so I am leaving social media behind. My phrasing is important, by the way. I did not say “I am leaving social media”. I am saying, “I am leaving social media behind.” I am moving on, not away. I am going to find something better. However, I do not know what that is yet, exactly.

I guess I will write, think, speak to people, and read more books. Maybe I will just be present, observing and appreciating the world around me. Maybe I will engage my creative side and take time to daydream. Whatever I do to fill the time Facebook sucked away, I doubt I will look back and think, “I wish I spent less time enjoying the breeze on my face and more time staring at my phone, scrolling through dumb articles and avoiding my life.”

That being said, this is still an experiment. I am not deleting my accounts. I might change my mind on all of this, or I might want to try again with a different approach. What I plan to do is log out of my accounts and uninstall the apps from my phone.

That means my blog will still post on my social media streams for now, but nothing else will, and I won’t be sharing my posts on my personal Facebook feed, where most people see them.

Some people actually might miss me on social media. Well, at least I like to think that, but I suspect most people will never know I left. It’s like quietly slipping away from a party. Maybe one or two people will notice they have not seen me in a while, but they will move on in a few minutes.

The fact is, I am not as important as I like to think I am.

If you want to know what I am up to or how I am doing, though, then you will have to do something scary. You will have to choose if you want me in your life, how much time you would like me to spend there, and then connect with me directly. I might reject you. You might reject me. Or we might build a real, legitimate friendship in the real world. I know. Scary, right?

There are some apps I am keeping, at least for now. I will stay on WhatsApp because I can create specific social circles with people I care about (like my brothers and parents) where we can have conversations in small groups that matter, where every word counts. I am keeping Hangouts for texting–again, direct one-to-one conversations, and I plan to stay on other direct message platforms like GroupMe and Slack.

Of course, you will be able to text me, instant message me on Hangouts, email me (MichaelSalamey@gmail.com) or reach me through one of my blogs.

Honestly, you probably won’t know I’m gone, but if you miss me, don’t be a stranger… or at least no stranger than me. Hopefully, not seeing me on Facebook will help you wonder what I am up to, and what you could be up to if you were not on Facebook.

Good luck either way. Maybe I’ll see you later… in the real world!


When To Ask For Help

Most people ask for help when they know they are in the middle of a problem they can not solve alone.

Employees wait until they know they will miss a deadline before reaching out to a supervisor. Couples wait until they are on the edge of separation before seeing a counselor. Drivers wait until they are lost before asking for directions.

Top professionals, however, ask for help BEFORE they encounter a problem, trying to anticipate problems likely to rise in their path.

Hopeful athletes find a coach long before they try out for the Olympics. The best actors find help by studying at Julliard before becoming renowned for their art. Great chess players spend years reading and learning likely outcomes for moves, anticipating plays brought on by opponents.

Whether your intention is to have a great date, be the next Kasparov, or just finish a project on time and on budget… don’t wait until you are in the problem to seek help.

Think like a pro and beat the problem to the problem. And then… no problem!


Spelling Matters

At its core, a leader’s job is to convince people to willingly do stuff. (By contrast, prison guards are paid to convince people to do stuff against their will–which do you have at your company?)

To be successful at his or her job, a leader only has one legitimate tool: Communication. Everything else is gimmicks or props to help with that single tool.

Martin Luther King, Jr. never carried a gun or used a hammer. He moved the world with the power of his words and nothing more. Same with John F. Kennedy. Same with Gandhi. Same with Carl Sagan, Hedy Lamarr, Mother Theresa, and nearly every other leader you can think of.

Yet… so many leaders neglect the only tool they have. I see countless emails with spelling errors from people expecting to, hoping to, or actually charged with leading others.

Spelling matters. Grammar matters. The power of a leader is not in their title. Neither Gandhi nor Martin Luther King, Jr. were appointed “Manager of Peaceful Relations”. The only title most people knew Hedy Lamarr by was “actress” though she was one of the most brilliant inventors of her time. A leader’s power and influence comes not from a title but from what they speak and write.

You could argue a leader’s power and influence also comes from what they do (their actions) but I assert if a leader’s speaking and writing is in alignment, his actions will automatically align with those values. Show me a sloppy speaker who leads by action alone and I will show you a comic book hero, like Batman. A real-world true leader has one core tool–communication. Everything else stems from that. Her actions are only as good as how well she professes to use them (both to herself and others).

Of course, no one is perfect but if you are hoping to lead others using the one tool you have and you do not know the difference between “there”, “they’re”, and “their”, or “to”, “two”, and “too”, and  you are too lazy to learn, then you are openly displaying your incompetence at leading… and other people see it.

You may not think spelling names correctly is a big deal or a few typos in an email is acceptable because you are busy. Consider instead that every typo, misspelling, grammar faux pas, and run-on sentence is a signal to the person who caught it that you do not know what you are doing. Spelling matters. Grammar matters.

If you are leading, or want to lead effectively, take the time to proof-read your messages. Use spell-check. Look up words you are unsure of. Learn the nuance of language (or at least the basic construction of sentences). Practice being precise in your writing and speaking, which will lead to precision in thinking, and thus to precision in action.

Precision with spelling and grammar leads to precision everywhere. Sloppiness in your writing and speaking leads to sloppiness everywhere.

Alternatively, if you prefer your career path to ultimately end at the tip of a fast-food chain’s spatula, than dont worry about you’re speling and grammer and you could end up their! 



Why Does It Matter?

“Why does it matter…?”

The better you become at asking this question to yourself, and answering it out loud before others speak up (if they will speak up), the closer you come to the essence of leadership.

Why does it matter? Because you care enough to answer the next, obvious question:

“How can I make it better?”



Want To Be Promoted?

Regardless of the position or company I am working in, at least a few times a year, I am approached by team members who believe it is time for their hard work to be recognized in the form of a promotion and monetary increase. “You know, I feel I deserve a raise,” they tell me, “I have been putting in extra hours and working really hard.”

There are a few problems with this from my perspective. If you have had, or want to have, this conversation with your boss, please let me help you.

Let’s start with the rationale itself… “I feel I deserve a raise…”

Okay, and…? So do I. So does everyone else, in every job, every where. I am not sure why YOU specifically feeling you deserve something should prompt ME (or the company) to comply. “I feel I deserve” is not a compelling reason to grant a promotion.

“I put in extra hours and work really hard…” This used to matter. Gen X’ers struggle with the concept that “keeping quiet and working hard” is no longer a strategy for success. With so many technological tools and best practices at our disposal, I put little to no stock in working extra hours. If there is anyone else on your team having success and working fewer hours than you, then you have only told me you are inefficient. I appreciate your commitment but that is still not a compelling reason to promote you. In fact, it is a pretty good reason not to. If you are struggling in your current role (and, frankly, advertising it), then why would I expect you to magically perform better in a higher level, higher pressure role? If you are struggling with work/life balance now, how will piling on more difficult work increase your morale, well-being, or commitment to our mission?

As far as “working really hard”, I am not sure what the distinction between working hard and working really hard is, but my assumption is all of my team members work hard. That is the baseline for being on my team, not a reason to promote a team member.

Okay, so now you know what not to do if you want to make a compelling argument for a raise or promotion. Let’s look at what you can do to lock in your success.

The first thing is, get it out of your head that you need the promotion before you can earn the role. That is not how it works.

When I was promoted from a sales manager to a district manager at a company I used to work for, the position was mine to lose. In other words, the promotion was locked in before I applied for it. Here is how I did it… I asked my boss (the former district manager) how I could help her. At first, she gave me small tasks. Could I visit another store and help coach some team members there? That was a district manager responsibility but I took it on. I didn’t ask for a raise for doing it. I just did it, and did it to the best of my ability. Then, I was helping with hiring, helping pre-screen applicants. Soon, I was a partner to my boss, helping develop strategies for success and taking on more and more of her duties, while she worked on bigger, more important tasks.

When the opportunity for a promotion came up, there was barely a question if I was going to get it. I was already fulfilling most of the role!

THAT is the fastest, best way I know to secure a promotion. As a general rule, I believe you should be able to competently do your job, plus at least one half of the next job up. That is a lot. It requires you to be more efficient, delegate effectively, and stretch your boundaries. In my mind, the person who does that does not deserve a promotion. They earned it, and it is obvious they earned it.

The other approach (and it is best if you can combine both) is to show your work. I don’t care who feels like they should be handed more money and a bigger title. I care who is achieving results. Nobody in the company should be keeping better data on your results than you. Don’t tell me you have been working really hard. Prove it. Show me the data that demonstrates how much efficiency your team has gained as a result of your efforts. Let me know what team members have improved thanks to your coaching, and by how much, and in what ways they have improved. Have your statistics ready, with a catalog of your wins.

The fact is, your boss is probably moving too fast to focus on, let alone remember, all the little (or even huge) ways you have contributed to the team’s success. Keep your own scorecard and have it ready when you are going for a promotion.

When I went for that district manager position, not only did I have my statistics and record of wins ready to go, but also I had a 34-page training manual to help the other store managers become more effective. I had already garnered a reputation for being willing to share all my “top-secret” formulas for success with my peers. After reviewing the manual and talking about my successes, I will never forget what the hiring manager said to me. He looked up from the training manual, put his pen down, and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but… why are you even here?!? Clearly, you could be making more money and probably working a bigger position somewhere else. Why here?”

The answer was simple. Money is nice, but I will never have enough money so I can’t let money decide where I work. I can always do bigger things in the world, no matter what big things I am up to, so I can’t let ambition dictate my career path. What I wanted was the opportunity to take on new challenges, learn, grow, spread my ideas, do innovative things, and most of all, feel good about going to work every day.

Oh… I guess there is a short cut to being promoted, too. It turns out if you focus on the things I did (and didn’t), you will almost certainly be guaranteed a promotion anyway.

How hard you have worked and whether you deserve it won’t even cross your mind because you won’t have to justify it to yourself or anyone else.

Good luck.


Don’t You Secretly Hate Having Customers?

Thanks to several flight delays, I spent 10 hours in an airport waiting for a 2-hour flight. Trying to reach Baltimore from Atlanta, I was delayed by a plane in Kansas City, that was delayed by weather. Obviously, airlines do not control weather, or delays caused by weather, but they DO control our experience of those delays.

Airports have essentially become homogenized strip malls selling low quality food and services at theme park prices. Worse, it seems no one in charge of customer experience at an airline or airport has ever visited a busy theme park.

Why is the airport experience so bad?

Airlines have been around longer than Disney Land, yet they seem to have learned nothing about lines, customer happiness, or engagement. There appears to be little to no incentive for airports to desire happy customers.

Imagine if Disney ran our airports. Waiting in long TSA lines would at least be entertaining. Prices would fluctuate based on demand. There might be better line management, with quick pass options. No doubt planes would fill faster and run more efficiently–perhaps even more safely.

After reaching my destination, I settled into my hotel room and logged onto their Wi-Fi, which was, itself, an effort in frustration. A few hours later, when I woke up, I had to log on again because the internet access expired.

Why do hotels reset their wi-fi every 24 hours? Are they afraid their transient guests will fly back from their homes to steal the hotel’s internet? On top of that, I could have paid for “upgraded” (meaning “faster than dial-up”) service. Why would you create a caste system for your guests?

The hotel internet and the airport line experience are both indicative of the same problem–businesses that have no connection to the people who consume their services.

The joke is, everybody knows how bad the airport experience is… except the airports and airlines! Everyone I know that has ever stayed at a hotel has complained about hotel internet. The only people who do not seem to know what a frustrating morass it is for their customers… is the hotels!

How many ways does your business undermine its success by being oblivious to the experience being had by your customers? How many pain points do you have between you and the people who want to buy (and enjoy buying) your products or services?

Where are you creating friction instead of smoothing the path for your clients to keep coming back for more?

Is it your return process? Is it the attitude of your front line employees (which means you might want to look at your hiring process)? Is it the jenky credit card reader that holds up your lines? Is it the long lines themselves, inviting clients to complain about your store to each other while waiting to give you their money?

Find the “invisible” pain points and shed light on them. If you can’t resolve them immediately, educate your customers on what you are doing to try.

If you are not working to create a better customer experience, you can rest assured your competition is.


When Are You A Leader?

I casually refer to our company’s most talented employees–the ones with passion for moving the company forward–as the company’s “leaders”. This includes some people on the executive team, of course, and it also includes some front line team members. By contrast, it also excludes some team members who have authority or are in traditional management positions.

You do not have to be in a “leadership” position to be a “leader”. I have known a few key decision-makers I would not call leaders. The question, then, is when does somebody become a leader?

I write about leadership and I am passionate about leadership, but I have never formally considered myself a leader, even if others have. “Leader” is not on my business card.

I have been in leadership roles for the last 20 years so at what point is it safe to say, “Yes, I’m a leader!” The short answer is, “probably never.”

“Leader” is not a goal any more than “great” is a goal. When is someone great? There are great people, sure, but did Jesus ever say, “I’m great, now. I’m a leader!” How about Martin Luther King, Jr? Gandhi?

There is a saying in martial arts that Black Belt is not the goal of training. It is the beginning. When you achieve your Black Belt, you have finally reached the level of “student”. Though there are people who hold the title of “Master” in martial arts, I have yet to meet a 6th degree Black Belt or above who believes he has “mastered” martial arts.

When are you a leader? Whenever you decide you are. But once you do, you are probably no longer a leader.