Leader As A God

Turns out I am not a God. I thought I might be. I became a leader so early. The youngest to have that much so-and-so in company history. I was recruited by the owner for crying out loud. They said, “you have unlimited potential”. The chosen one. I realize now at best, I am an imperfect leader and in some ways I am inadequate in the leading roles of my life.

Sometimes I am too bossy, like when I get too aggressive with direct reports or team mates while chasing a deadline. Other times I am a pushover, stuck with too many direct reports taking the same day off. Sometimes I am easily distracted by three or four inboxes erupting at the same time. Sometimes I am too tired to be very good at anything. Damned to imperfection like other mere mortals. I thought I was different.

I remember having these chosen one thoughts even when I look back to my first job, washing dishes at The Boat Restaurant, probably when I was eight years old. I was the third generation to wash dishes at our family restaurant, and even at eight I thought I was the heir-apparent. On busy nights I would imagine I was in a great dishwashing olympics, the Hercules of the games.

It’s dark outside and hot, noisy and fast in the kitchen, my arena. The pressure is on. Speed is the order of the day and a voice says I ought to be the fastest. The first event – pots and pans. Steal wool and elbow grease. Ugh, this pan will never be clean. “Could his gold medal run be over already?” the voice announces to a gasping crowd. More elbow grease. Got it. Next, the expanse of filthy plates gathering out of control like a herd of wild horses. Chaos. First clear off the gross food, then into the soapy water. The bubbles hide the crystal clear pool of hot water underneath, so hot I can only submerge my hands for a second or two. This’ll do the trick.

“What a comeback,” the voice echoes through the P.A. as the crowd’s excitement begins its crescendo. Faster. Rinse and dry and stack and run. Scoop the silverware out. Grab all the knives first. Easy to grab quickly with their big handles. Then the forks whose pointy tips stick up like little hands. Finally the spoons in one triumphant scoop. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a new world record!”, the voice announces to the roaring crowd.

Maybe I’ll never be that good at anything again. In fact, I probably wasn’t very good at dishwashing to begin with. Despite accepting my imperfection, I am still surprised when I screw up and let others down. I’ll keep trying. Where’d that voice go anyway?