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Sid’s Sense- The Top Dog

Leaders are born and made.

View previous posts in this series, Sid’s Sense.

Sid was born a leader. No doubt in my mind. Some people naturally have less fear when the gun goes off. The best leaders have that sixth sense, an intuition.

The best advantage of being the child of a great leader is witnessing the actions and behaviors that come from that intuition. Over time I began to predict what he would do–this is a sign I was developing the intuition myself. Some Dads take their kids bowling or fishing. My Dad took me to meet judges in their chambers:).

So here’s what I learned about leadership.

We can ALL be leaders.  Here is how you get started.


Hang around good leaders. Observe the nuances of their interactions which are often secrets to their success.

Realize leaders love to share what they know. Take advantage and ask LOTS of questions. Think you’ll embarrass yourself? Hardly. No question is stupid if it’s sincere. Even if it was, you’ll just make the leader feel even smarter.

Mimic effective leaders. We have plenty of time to be ourself. Imitate what works for others and see if you get the same result. Soon you’ll develop your own style.

Take on leadership tasks and practice.  Jump in, baby! You’ll take off that shy mask the minute a group is staring at you.

SOPLACH:  Society of People Lovers and Committee Haters

“Search all your parks and all your cities and you’ll find no statues of committees.”

Sid created SOPLACH years ago. My company made up nameplates with the slogan which he mailed out to individuals who earned their way in by proving they had become supreme hellraisers.

So why are we not fond of committees?

Too much time is spent trying to reach a consensus. If you didn’t buy into the headline in Sid’s Sense post, Inside Success, “Nothing can ever be attempted if all objections must first be overcome,” then just get on a committee!

So much time wasted on idle chit chat and fill noise. I recognize committees provide an avenue for people to get involved. But I’ve never been on one that took off running when the bell rang.

They cater to captains. Wherever the venue, I immediately sense who the “foreman” are. The more reserved members don’t get much of a chance to share their ideas. So why don’t the “go getters” just “go get” in the first place and save everyone else’s time. (With that said, I have nothing but total admiration and respect for those “go getters” that still have the patience to endure the committees. God Bless PTO Moms!)

Set your own boundaries

Our elementary school needed someone to be in charge of all the food for the school’s annual carnival. I agreed to do it under one condition–  I would not have to attend any of the meetings. I knew I could be perceived as arrogant or uncooperative but that was my choice. I agreed to plan, order, shop and staff the event–all of it—but no meetings. The committee agreed.

The key when you tie conditions to your participation is to PERFORM.  If you don’t, your credibility goes in the toilet and you make everyone else look bad. I performed this role for several years. Eventually the other moms just accepted this as my style.

Don’t be afraid to set terms. Know what works for you and don’t be afraid of what others will think. And don’t be personally insulted if your terms are not accepted. Respect other’s wishes. Make your own decisions.

Remember WIIFM! If you approach life always keeping in mind this acronym which stands for “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” you will be much happier and a better leader. You’ll reach compromises sooner. You’ll set your boundaries guilt-free. What is good for you may not be good for others. What’s good for others may not be good for you. AND THAT’S OK!!!!!

Delegate: Raise people to their level of incompetence

If you are going to run anything larger than a peanut stand, you must learn to delegate. This isn’t one of my strong suits, or Sid’s for that matter, but it is necessary to succeed. You can’t do everything yourself all the time.

An effective leader raises those he leads to their level of incompetence.  Help people reach higher levels for themselves than they ever thought possible. If you don’t raise employees, students, team members and even yourself, to their level of incompetence, then you haven’t delegated enough.

Don’t penalize failure of others (or yourself) when it is due to stretching beyond their comfort zone. Two things could be happening. Failure is their rehearsal for future success. OR failure is indicative of an upper limit. Either way, lessons are learned.

Teach when you’re throwing out the life raft. Any leader who’s been around awhile will tell you that “rescue” comes with the territory. Always be prepared to step in when necessary. The buck stops with you. But don’t put people in your boat and drive off in disgust like you’re such hot stuff. Appreciate effort, attack the problem not the person, teach skills, modify strategies, and instill confidence by keeping paddles in everyone’s hands.

Part of being a leader is knowing what role to play. Take the reigns when necessary. When you hand them over, expect no more of others than you would expect of yourself. There’s nothing worse than a boss who isn’t a role model.

Reality Distortion Field

A few months ago I wouldn’t have put this in this series. Not because it didn’t exist but because I couldn’t define “it”. I have witnessed my father in thousands of interpersonal interactions, whether he was acting as an attorney, hellraiser, or consumer. When we would discuss the interaction I witnessed afterward, it was apparent we had different perceptions of how the other person perceived the event. My Dad would assume the meeting went really well. I would think the person was upset, angry or dismayed. It was clear that I gave more thought to the residue left behind from the interaction than he did.

According to Wikipedia, the term Reality Distortion Field (RDF) “is a term coined by Bud Tripple at Apple Computer in 1982 to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs’ charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Mac project.” (The term supposedly came from the TV show, Star Trek).

It is this ability to use charismatic authority to convince others to believe almost anything. “RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scale of difficulty which made them believe that the task at hand was possible.”

I would often criticize my Dad’s reality perception. Then time and time again, I would see his unwavering optimism result in the impossible becoming possible. Competitive forces would begin aligning like ducks in a row.

Psychologists would say Sid is “in denial” when he is in pursuit of a goal. Others might say he just doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

I would say he has “selective attention.” He pays attention not to others emotional reactions for that would be a distraction. Rather, he has patience behind his resoluteness as he coaxes people into his reality.

Confidence without arrogance

Those whom I most admire, my father included, are both confident and humble.

When you are competent, show it. Competence is one of the sexiest traits (yes, I did say sexy!) as long as it isn’t coupled with arrogance. The person who demonstrates this combo so beautifully is Oprah Winfrey. That is why she is so well received. You feel her humility, her gratitude, her sincerity.

When competent and humble, others want to learn from you because you rise them up alongside you. Know what you are good at and admit when you’re clueless. Learn from everyone. Especially those who are different from you.

Sid recently repeated this lesson to my youngest daughter.

There’s nobody you can’t learn from, Chloe. Some of the smartest people I have known are the people from whom you will expect the least and get the most.

Back in the 1950’s I’ll never forget learning what a sharp shooter was from John, a 76 year old ditch digger with no formal education. I asked him why he was so much faster than I was and he proceeded to teach me a “physics principle” regarding my range of motion as compared to his. Because I was the “boss,” he was afraid I might fire him if he taught me a lesson unsolicited.

Chloe, everyone has something to teach. Listen.

Great leaders are intentional, charismatic, and trustworthy. Influence is the byproduct.

I played “Follow the Leader” and Simon Sid Says” a lot as a kid. Little did I know it was the preschool leadership academy:).

[sneak peek message=”Stay tuned for Part XI of Sid’s Sense, The King & Queen and Silver Bullets.“]

"As long as you understand what you don't know, you're smart."

  1. Going to print this one off. Brought tears to my eyes. I know I keep saying this, but this one has to be one of your best! Wow.

    June 5, 2012
    • fitskitz

      This one is definitely one of my favorites in the Sid’s Sense series!

      June 5, 2012
  2. Oh my gosh………the SOPLACHs! Thanks for rekindling some of the acronyms I heard around your Dad’s office. Now while I too may be a member of the SOPLACHers, I am not completely comfortable with WIIFM thinking. Perhaps that’s why I appreciated my service-oriented occupation, putting family and friendships first. However, using your line of WIIFM thought, that was “what’s good in it for me” at that time. Good point, Susan. And by the way, I considered all the attorneys in office my friends first and employers second–perhaps just another reason why it worked so well for many years.

    Thanks for sharing Sid’s Boy Scout photo. There is nothing like the brotherhood and teachings of this organization. There is a special scout in my family (Screeching Owl) who today at 40-something finds conversation ice breakers using the topic of scouting or MIZZOU upon meeting new individuals.

    Susan, for me, this has been one of your most enlightening posts; one that has me wanting to go back and read again. You are keeping our minds and muscles toned quite nicely.

    June 5, 2012
    • fitskitz

      Thank you, Donna! They loved you because you are smart as the dickens! You make a valid point on the WIIFM principle. That could be misinterpreted for sure. The point is really to go after “win-win” solutions. When you look at the other person’s position from THEIR point of view, what is important to them, then maybe you can reach a compromise where both parties come out satisfied. Today greed and selfishness sometimes take center stage and your point is well taken.

      June 6, 2012

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