Marcus Blankenship

@marcusblankenship

The only leadership theory that matters

“E-mc2 written on chalkboard” by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

There are lots of leadership theories running around.

Servant Leadership, Adaptive Leadership, Great Man Theory… the list goes on and on.

But in the end, only one leadership theory matters: the theory that your team has about you.

My first Leadership Theory

My first job was at Taco Bell, where I held the esteemed title of “Fry Boy.” The job entailed standing over a hot vat of oil, frying the taco shells needed for that day.

My boss, Jamie, didn’t talk to me much. Each morning she placed a list next to the fryer telling me how many shells to fry.

Twice a day she stopped by to inspect my work. Common feedback was: Too chewy. Too dark. Too light. Change oil. Go faster. Be careful.

Twice a month she put a check in my box.

It didn’t take long for me to construct a working theory about leaders. I decided that leaders do three things:

  1. Tell you what to do
  2. Complain about your work
  3. Pay you

This was one of my earliest theories of leadership.

My theory went deeper than just how bosses behave. It included:

  • How they think
  • What they care about
  • What goes on in their head
  • What motivates them

Not surprisingly, my Taco Bell Leadership Theory wasn’t very flattering toward bosses.

It also convinced me that I never wanted to become a leader.

We are all little scientists

We all build theories to make sense of the world and people around us. From the moment we are born, we act like ‘little scientists’ — forming theories and testing hypothesis.

Today, each person on your team has a working theory about leadership that explains what you do, how you think, what you care about, etc.

This theory was constructed from their experience working for you and every other boss in their past.

Why this matters

If you don’t tell your team why you do things, what you care about, and what motivates you then they have no choice but to fall back on their personal Taco Bell Leadership Theory.

Which, though probably wrong, helps them to make sense of what they see.

Feeling frustrated that they’re jumping to the wrong conclusions, making bad assumptions, or not giving you the benefit of the doubt?

It’s time to share your WHY with your team.

Next up: why your Theory of Followership matters so much.

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