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You don’t need permission to lead.
It’s often said that good things come to those who wait. While that may be true, there’s a fundamental problem: everyone confuses waiting with stillness. Stillness might be good for the mind every morning, but when it comes to creating opportunities or attaining leadership positions, stillness is kryptonite.
Jack Butcher talks about the idea of “permissionless apprenticeships”—doing work for someone without being hired, or them even knowing. That sounds crazy, why would you want to do something like that? Put simply, you’ll catch the attention of someone you admire, it shows initiative, and it reveals your passion for the work they do. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone like you?
I always like to take things a step further. Try what I call “permissionless leadership.” Not only will you catch the eye of people you admire, it shows initiative, and it reveals your passion for their work. But you’ll gain something more valuable than any money you’ll be paid: trust. When you lead without being asked, people, leaders, and followers will follow because they trust that you are leading them to where they want to go.
Trust is the ultimate form of leverage. It’s flexible. It’s transferrable. Trust moves up the chain and down the chain. When you have the owner’s trust, you’ll eventually be endorsed with a leadership position. When you have a subordinate’s trust, you are endorsed with their loyalty. And when you have a rival’s trust, well, you’ll be unstoppable. With trust, mountains can be moved, dreams can come true, visions can be built. But trust does not come to those who wait.
When I became the assistant manager of a retail store at 20 years old, it happened because I never waited for someone to tell me what to do. I emulated the leaders I admired, did what needed to be done, my work ethic gained the trust of everyone in the store (some 30-40 years older than me), and eventually the opportunity to lead came to me.
When I was entrusted with three locations of a multimillion-dollar restaurant empire at age 27, I hadn’t waited for the opportunity. It came to me because I had demonstrated an unparalleled tendency to lead without being asked. No job was below me. My work ethic spoke for me. People began to trust and follow me. And word spread like wildfire.
When George Washington was asked—openly pleaded with—to come out of retirement from his home in Mount Vernon to become the first President of the United States, he wanted no part of public office. But the opportunity came to him because he had devoted his life to permissionless leadership. Throughout his life, Washington had the predisposition to lead. He never asked. He just led. And ironically, by 1787, great leaders asked for permission to be led by him.
I take this approach everywhere I go. Not only have I opened myself up to new and exciting job opportunities with people I admire, but they have entrusted me with the highest levels of responsibility—trust that is transferrable to other great opportunities.
You don’t need to be asked to lead.
When everyone else is going left, go right.
When everyone else is standing in line, create your own path.
When everyone else is following, lead.
Stop waiting for permission.
Be a leader. Our world needs it.
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