Leaders Go First


The reason we follow leaders is because they are out in front. They take us places we have never been before. Are you that kind of leader?

My guess is that everyone reading this will use your phone today. But do you remember the story behind the invention of the telephone?

In the 1870's, two inventors, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell, both independently designed devices that could transmit speech electrically (the telephone). Both men rushed their respective designs to the patent office within hours of each other, but Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone first. Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell entered into a famous legal battle over the invention of the telephone, which Bell won. Sadly, for Elisha Gray, his work went unnoticed. Very few people have even heard his name. Everyone remembers Alexander Graham Bell. Why? He won. He went first, even if only by a few hours. The fact is, the reason we follow leaders is because they are out in front.

It’s the Star Trek Principle. The principle is based on the television show that still draws fans over forty years later. I believe they are called Trekkies. Do you remember how the show began each week? We heard the phrase that described the mission of the Starship Enterprise: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” That’s it! That’s what most people need from a leader—to take them someplace they've never gone before. In general, people will not pioneer new territory without someone leading them to do so.

How about your leadership? Are you really leading? Where are you taking your people or your team? Is it to a place they've never experienced before? In what area are you pioneering? This is what distinguishes leaders from managers. Both are necessary—but managers maintain what is already in place with efficiency. Leaders take new territory.

In your work, are you Alexander Graham Bell or Elisha Gray?

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