The higher up the echelons of power you rise, the more your leadership task takes on the shape of a Rube Goldberg machine. Truly great leaders bring with them not only the ideas worth implementing, but the uncanny intuition of the machine standing between their idea and its reality.
When working by oneself, there’s a tremendous sense of immediacy to the task at hand, an almost mechanical connectedness. No effort is wasted, all the energy of the input is used efficiently into the solution. This is a highly rewarding state of productivity, and many people opt to operate in this way their whole lives to great effect.
A different way to affect change is to clone yourself. This is at its heart what a manager does. Aren’t enough hours in the day? Hire 3 people and multiply the number of hours in the week. This works all the way up the ladder, sometimes with many layers in between, to the highest levels of leadership.
This multiplier can yield enormous dividends, unstoppable business, organizations, and governments. Great leaders have the power to bring about unthinkable amounts of change.
So what is the cost? Well, the more you try to multiply yourself by having others do your bidding, the less direct that connection is with your goals. You work more with your brain and less with your hands. You lose efficiencies when others misinterpret your strategy or second-guess your tactics.
In a simple machine, you push on a button and the attached door opens. In the Ruby Goldberg machine of high-level leadership, you need to push on a button far, far away from your goals and then watch the cascading effect, perhaps not knowing for many months whether you pushed the right button.