20: The Law of Explosive Growth

The author opens with the example of Papa John's pizza, whose founder began the franchise by selling pizza out of a converted broom closet in a local tavern and grew it to a global franchise in less than a decade. The founder, John Schnatter, understood the law of explosive growth: "It's my job to build the people who are going to build the company."

He recognized that one man doesn't have the time or energy to run a chain of restaurants on his own: each restaurant would need to be led by a manager who was as good a leader as himself. He set out to recruit people with talent, and coach them to become effective leaders. A quote from one employee, "The reason we're successful as a company is our good people."

Of all the factors, this is most critical: getting property, materials, and equipment is relatively simple - all you need is money. Offering customers good value at a fair price can be challenging in tough economic times, but is still fairly straightforward. Getting good people is critical. You can get everything else right, and you will fail without them. In fact, if you get good excellent leadership, they will carry you even if you don't fully succeed in the other elements.

Good Leaders Create Explosive Growth

Coaching leadership is an investment that multiplies like no other. If you buy a good machine, it does not create more good machines, or your make poor equipment perform any better. If you get a good leader, he develops his subordinates into good leaders, and attracts more good leaders to your firm.

This happens exponentially, when one good leader cultivates ten good followers, each of those ten followers becomes a leader who can cultivate ten followers of their own. In just two "generations" of leadership, you grow from having one good leader to having 111 of them, and by the third, there would be 1,111 leaders.

To experience exponential growth, you must train your leaders into the kind that will train other leaders.

(EN: The author says nothing of time, how long it takes for a leader to develop ten followers into leaders, but I expect this depends on the nature of development and the potential of the student. If you focus on teaching leadership, it might be a few years; if it's something you do occasionally or if you're working to undo the damage of a culture, much longer.)

Poor Leadership

The author considers the kind of leader whose aim is to aggregate power and control to themselves by disempowering their subordinates. Such a person can get things done by using people, but does not develop others into leaders. The author regards this sort as a person who wants to "make followers" rather than developing followers into leaders, and doing so costs his organization greatly in the long run, as there is no growth in leadership or capability of the people.

Points of contrast are provided between the leader and the power-seeker:

Individuals who seek personal power often seem very effective in the lowest echelons of leadership because they command the obedience of their people and, by disempowering their subordinates, seem stronger themselves by comparison. But again, their short-term effectiveness comes at a greater long-term cost to their organization as their subordinates remain disempowered, weak, and incapable. Tasks get done, but growth does not occur. When they leave the organization, the benefit of their service ends immediately.

Leaders who develop their subordinates, meanwhile, do not seem to command authority. Decisions are made by their subordinates, and they merely seem to be coordinating tasks without putting in much effort. But the long-term effect of good leadership is that the people they manage develop a higher level of competence and confidence, creating a legacy that extends past their term of office in the people they have developed.

That said, developing leaders are difficult because potential leaders are difficult to find: a powerful leader draws sycophants, themselves fledgling power-seekers, and people with the right mindset are often very successful and happy at another job. (EN: This, itself, is a power-seeker's complaint. If you need people to have the right mindset on their own, it's because you cannot cultivate it, which in turn is because you are not a leader.)

Developing people into leaders is also hard work: they are energetic and entrepreneurial and often want to go their own way. And if you succeed at developing their leadership qualities, they become difficult to hold onto: they will recognize opportunities elsewhere, and other organizations will want recognize their value and want to hire them away. Unless your organization is growing and creating rapidly enough to create opportunities for them, good leaders will move on.

A Leader Developed from Afar

The author brags a bit about the number of languages his books have been translated into, then tells the story of a pastor in India who grew a small church into a large congregation after reading the author's books and listening to recorded lectures.

The point to this is that the influence of a leader can spread far beyond those with whom he has immediate contact: his ideas can spread far and wide, and the people he inspires can inspire others.

Of importance is that this only happens when you are a leader who creates leaders: if your interest is in creating devoted followers, your reach is no further than your arm.