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What High School Physics Taught me about Leadership

newtons-first-law

Bro. Carl was my high school physics teacher and basketball coach.  For the record I was a much better physic student than basketball player (most of my career was on the bench). 

Leadership is often about moving people who may be stalled or stagnant toward one direction or to a certain goal, achieving something, making a change.  The challenge is finding what will move them.

Newton’s First Law of Motion reads: “An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an outside force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force.” This law is often called "the law of inertia.”

Leaders as a force for change

Often people and organizations (organizations at the core are just groups of people) can suffer from a kind of group “inertia.”  They can be stuck in a mental rut with “that is the way we have always done things” thinking or “this is the way it is and it can’t be changed” thinking.  And just as Newton tells us, to get them energized or moving in the right direction we need an outside force to get them moving in that right direction. Real Leaders must be that outside force, at least in the beginning.

In like manner, people and organizations can also suffer from a feeling of spinning out of control or experiencing a lot of movement, but going nowhere—or worse, moving in a direction of consistent failure.  Again, we turn to Newton—a body in motion remains in motion in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force.  Again, Real Leaders must be that outside force.

Real Leaders

Leaders can act as a catalyst for change.  Real Leaders:

  • Need to have a vision of what they want their organization to look like and do
  • Need to work with their people to develop a plan with concrete and measurable objectives
  • Need to build relationships so staff can and do trust them
  • Need to create environment where staff can share knowledge
  • Need to “connect the dots” for the different members of their organization so everyone can have an appreciation for the big picture

What did I learn?

The passion and actions of leaders can provide the outside force needed to make positive changes within an organization and create a movement toward excellence. 

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