Lead Big or Lead Small

Leadership Lessons from an Afternoon at Monster Jam

Sometimes leading small is really leading big.

It is human nature for most folks, when given a choice, to choose the big piece of pie instead of the smaller piece. Leaders are no different. There are some really great books out there that talk about servant leadership and one with the title, Leaders Eat Last. It was inspired by an interview between Simon Sinek and Lt. Gen. George Flynn, USMC Ret.

In that interview, Sinek asked Flynn to try and summarize what made the Marine Corps leadership style unique among the various branches of the military. Flynn said it was quite simple; it was because “Officers eat last”. This concept is both fundamental and intentional. And it exemplifies what makes the Marine Corps such an extraordinarily tight-knit unit. In chow-halls all across the globe Marines line up for their food each day with the most junior ranking Marines getting their food and eating first. Their officers eat last.

Just like in the pivotal courtroom seen in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, you will not find this procedure in the Marine Corps handbook. Nor is it communicated at roll call. It’s just the way that Marine leadership teaches responsibility from recruit class to recruit class and into the rank and file of the Marine Corps.

So what does this have to do with leading big or small?

We go back to human nature. And we go back to some of the common personality traits of leaders. They are usually not shy and reclusive. And they have no problem standing up for themselves or their people. And they usually have substantial egos. And they are generally motivated to succeed. Those are not bad traits. But they also tend to want to grow and leader bigger and bigger teams and seek to influence on a larger scale when offered the chance.

I am still not sure what this has to do with leading big or small!

Let me speak personally and transparently for a moment. I have had opportunities in the past to lead big. And I have accepted the challenge willingly. I have had success from a leadership perspective.

But, as I approach this stage of my life, I am looking at the importance of leading small. I am seeing the importance of pouring my self into just a few and carefully chosen individuals. One of the individuals topping that list is the nearly nine-year-old that I spent the afternoon with at Monster Jam today. We had a fun time. We talked, we ate, we watched the big trucks, and we laughed. At one point, Coca-Cola may have nearly snorted out of my nose because we were laughing so hard. It was a spectacular time. It gave me the opportunity to lead in small, yet very important, ways.

We all need to “lead small” a little more.

Don’t give up your big leadership responsibilities. At least not right away. But find some areas where you can lead small. There may be a son or grandson that needs to spend some time with you. There may be a young leader at your workplace that needs some of your time. Give it. And give it willingly.

You never know what big thing will come out of a small investment of your time, talent, or treasure.




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I am the husband of a beautiful and wonderful woman. I am the father of two of the greatest kids on the planet. I am a father-in-law to a great young woman. And I am Papa to three very special grandchildren. In my spare time I am an active blogger and writer. And if there is any time left over, I work with small non-profit organizations and churches on the topics of change management, crisis intervention and leadership development.

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