Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager

"I want people who are problem solvers and are willing to take initiative. I want people working for me who act like they own the place."

- Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager, page v

A friend handed me Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager a couple years ago and told me it had made a huge difference in his career. My friend was a highly effective regional manager for a national company and he had maintained several successful personal businesses on the side. If it made such a difference for him, I was interested.

I started reading it. And it was dumb! It is a parable about a disillusioned account executive who meets an off-beat magician. She talks him through his problems until they “magically” (pun intended) disappear. As I read along, my attitude switched from this is dumb to this is brilliant. The simplicity of the parable matched the simplicity of the concept of self leadership and provided a worthy vehicle to communicate it to the reader. Yet, the simplicity masked how profound and life-changing self leadership can be!

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

You are more powerful than you think

"Don’t buy into the assumed constraint that position power is the only power that works."
- Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager, page 50

Believing you have the power to lead yourself is the first step to taking responsibility. The authors do a great job of illustrating multiple varieties of power that a person has at his/her disposal. I found this very liberating and at the heart of self leadership.

As the quote above suggests, position power is the most obvious kind of power. “The Boss” has position power. But, that is not the only kind. They also list:

  • Task power, the ability to do something other people can’t.
  • Personal power, the ability to assure people and gain their confidence.
  • Knowledge power, being the person who knows things that others don’t.
  • Relationship power, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Regardless of position, tenure or experience, each person has at least one of those kinds of power they can activate to lead themselves and to get their work done. If you listen to most people’s excuses, they refuse responsibility because they fail to acknowledge they have power.

My daughters were 11 and 14 when they returned from summer camp determined to “feed the homeless.” They couldn’t drive. They had no money. They had no street-smarts. But they had determination. They asked for my help. They called rescue missions. We contrived a way to get drivers to carry meals in their car to hand out to panhandlers on street corners. Their story was included in a book entitled, Do Hard Things, and people from all over the country wanted to be part of the action. Literally thousands of meals have been given to homeless men and women because two young girls recognized they had more power than they knew.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Challenge assumed restraints

"Circus trainers say they can put a piece of string around that six-ton elephant’s leg and he won’t break away."
- Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager, page 31

The book retells the well-worn story about training a circus elephant with a cable when it is small and later the giant full-grown elephant will remain tethered by a small string because the elephant thinks it is still cabled. I don’t know if it is true or fiction, but it doesn’t really matter. We can readily see that they only reason such a powerful animal would refuse to move is its belief that it can’t.

Most of the failure of self leadership is the belief that we can’t. We put restraints on ourselves. If you think of a frustrating situation and complete the sentence, “I can’t because…”, you will find your constraints. If you take a close look at those constraints, some are real, and will have to be overcome by real means. Many of them are assumed restraints. I assume I can’t, so I don’t try. Much of self leadership is deciding to challenge those assumptions.

The simplest way to challenge assumed restraints is to ask for help. Asking for help is like magic, the authors claim. Everyone loves to feel useful and important. If you ask for help, you will be surprised at what you will receive.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

You are responsible for getting what you need

"When goals work out, it is usually because you instinctively take the initiative to be a self leader and get what you need to succeed."
- Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager, page 104

The importance of self leadership is clearly set forth in the book. The authors deviate a little from the simplicity of their call to self leadership when they add “situational leadership” into the mix. It feels a little off-topic, yet the addition does add substance.

You don’t always need the same thing, depending on your competence and commitment. If you have low competence, you clearly need more direction than you do if you are highly competent. But, you could be highly competent and still need support to help you complete a project.

The One Minute Manager franchise has other situational leadership books. The concept is, though, most helpful when you apply it to yourself. If you take responsibility for your own performance, you know – really know – how competent you are or how committed you are. So you can get the help you need. You’ll never be as sure of another person’s situation quite as well as your own.

By creating a parable involving a magician, the authors made this an easy read. The friend who turned me on to this book has assigned it to a leadership class of high school students. I have assigned this to a leadership class I teach at our church. It is not a Christian book, yet the simple message of taking responsibility for yourself is foundational to all moral living.

The message that you can make a difference in your own life is the simplest leadership messages, and is desperately needed in our generation.

In what situation do you need to quit making excuses and start leading yourself?

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Scott Reavely

ABOUT Scott Reavely

I am husband to one, father to five. By day I am a pastor, by night a softball coach for 10 year-old girls. In my free time I serve on the board of Western Seminary...
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