Of Kings And Presidents, Which One Would You Be?
I promise this isn’t political…except to appreciate that all companies have politics and young top performers, grizzled sage veterans and idealistic new entrepreneurs alike all have leadership aspirations. So what kind of leader are you fit to be?
No matter what your current evaluation of our Oval Office inhabitant pro or con, and clearly any reasonable, non-idealogue would agree there is certainly a mix, whatever proportion. It would also seem reasonable to agree that whatever your politics our current President’s experience dominating a business empire seems to have equipped him better to be a King, an assertion I’d bet even he would agree with (or no doubt would prefer).
Why not? Mel Brooks once famously repeated in a movie, “It’s good to be the King.” For the most part, it is. Of course the offset to absolute power is that if there’s enough dissension about your ending is likely absolute too. (Why Kim Jong-un has had his detractors killed first, right?)
Leadership, when it is closer to absolute would appear to be easier. At least more expeditious and maybe less contentious. With that power one is also less likely to attract or embrace opposing points of view, alternative approaches or dire predictions of the King’s actions. A president on the other hand is usually beholden to more influences from above, a CEO, a board of directors or customers (as opposed to subjects).
The fantasy of power, whether owning your own business or running a company or a division is about control and the endowment of your own opinion. It comes from the confidence that you either know better or are better suited to evaluate all opinions and choose the course. Perhaps you do or you can and that is certainly a primary element of success in leadership but even should you own a one-man-band of which you are president, believing you are (or should be) the king is equally a primary element for a very bumpy ride. LeBron James excluded.
If you are primed for leadership, a novice leader or even a seasoned captain it’s wise to remember some very different realities that a President might embrace to find success. Here’s my top 10:
- A King is often hailed as infallible and deified, a President benefits from humility and demonstrations of his or her own humanity.
- A King brushes away negative consequences and controls the perception through a forced narrative, a President lives by a scorecard of good and bad metrics described by others.
- A King’s authority is absolute, a President’s authority is built by creating consensus.
- A King’s subject loyalty is demanded, a President’s staff loyalty is earned continuously.
- A King’s mistakes are someone else’s fault, a President is accountable for results and actions alike.
- What a King desires is the law, a President acknowledges constraint of law.
- A King needs love from his subjects, a President needs respect.
- A King surrounds himself with figure heads, a wise President surrounds himself with strong leaders.
- A King makes his own agenda, a President serves the agenda of the constituency.
- Being a President is immensely difficult….heavy is the head that wears the crown, yeah but, “It’s good to be the king.”
So royalty is good work if you can get it, if you can’t and you are still looking to excel in leadership you’d do well not to confuse the two.