The Great Man Myth: Or how the Simpsons and Tolstoy will calm your nerves when meeting Rick Flair

I don’t have any interest in meeting celebrities. I met Rick Flair once. He came to my bar after a night of performing at the XL Center – still had his boots and shorts on. I poured him a glass of wine and listened to him whine just like every other lonely/pathetic business traveler that came into that joint.

Don’t get nervous around celebrities, and don’t get nervous around the big bosses at work. Trust me, they’re more scared of you than you are of them.

And don’t take what they say for gospel. Trust me, you’re not crazy, they really just making it up as they go along.

And don’t dream of being them one day. Trust me, they’re dreaming of being someone else.

Leadership is only a real thing if the followers make it real, which means leadership is not really a real thing ever, it’s more like a coincidence. People are mostly the same and leaders are not Great High People from the High Lands.

Tolstoy suggested that leaders are like Maggie from the Simpsons. You know the opening sequence, where baby Maggie is steering a fake steering wheel in the passenger seat while mom Marge is doing the actual driving. Maggie feels like she’s in control and her actions are steering the car, but it’s just a coincidence. Marge is doing the real driving. Marge is the People and Maggie is “leadership” – a drooling whining pooping-in-her-pants invalid drunk off the illusion of control.

This is a lesson for leaders in leadership roles at work. The tree grows from it’s roots. Cut out the roots and the tree dies. Don’t worry so much about pleasing your bosses. Take care of your people because they’re the ones who are really in charge.

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