“Ladies and gentlemen, I am stepping down as the CEO effective immediately.”
When this guy—this senior leader of this publicly traded NASDAQ organization, multi-billion dollar revenue producing company—when this guy stepped down and made that announcement, the room changed. The room was formerly full of very senior—vice presidents and other—leaders who had operated from, frankly, a sense of comfort and it collectively shifted. That needle went—WHOOSH—over to panic. It went from civilized to primal like that when those words were uttered. What is it that caused that to happen? What is it that led to that shift in the room? It was the very same thing that, if you as a leader don’t understand what it is from a mindset perspective, it can eat your lunch and it can eat the lunch of the people closest to you in your life. That is the topic of this third video installment in our series of rooftop leadership mindset and the theme is very simple—abundance over scarcity.
When that senior leader announced that he was stepping down, everyone in that room who had been operating from a position of abundance immediately went into scarcity mode. Think about that in your life. Has that ever happened? Have you ever been in a position where you felt like the rug was literally pulled out from under your feet where you were like, “Everything’s cool, I’ve got what I need,” and then, all of a sudden—BAM—it all changes. This could happen if you lose your job. This could happen if, in the military, you got a no-pay due. This could happen if you were passed over for a promotion. If you start a small business and you don’t get the loan that you need—how does that feel when that happens? It goes where? Down in your gut, right? It’s visceral. You literally feel it in your gut and those feelings that you get are primal, clan, status feelings that humans have been feeling for a million years. It is what mammals feel when there is not enough food to go around. That is scarcity behavior and scarcity behavior is a primal driver of behavior around the world. Guess what? It’s just as relevant and prevalent in civilized society as it is in tribal society.
We’ve just built a buffer on top of it that allows us to experience abundance in certain situations. But make no mistake—if certain conditions happen and they will in your world and the world that you lead in, people will go from abundance to scarcity like that. Your job as a leader is to recognize that shift in yourself as well as your family members—your kids, your teenagers, God help us with our teenagers, they feel it all the time—to recognize it in your clients, your prospects who are thinking about giving you the money but they’re scared, to recognize it in your employees and you associates as things fall apart.
Now, who is the enemy here? Well, there are two enemies as I see it.
One is the internal enemy and that is primal fear. That’s the fear that we have when there is not enough. The same fear that dogs feel when there is not enough food and they are out there having to ravage. That sounds pretty tribal, pretty primal, but it is what it is. The more we get back to our instincts and understand who we really are, the better we can lead. The internal enemy is that primal fear that can drive you or others to demonstrate scarcity behavior.
Then, there is the external enemy and that is the manifestation, the emergence, the establishment of competing groups over this perceived scarcity. That is when things go horribly, horribly wrong because when groups start to compete for resources, what happens is they lose their ability to collaborate, they lose their ability to focus on the future, they lose their ability to buy into your vision of a better world because of what’s on their mind. Survival. Survival for them and their most immediate family members are clan or in-group. This could happen at work. This could happen with your prospects. This could happen with your kids on the middle school bus. When a scarcity mindset infiltrates into an environment of abundance, it’s ugly, man, and it never ends well.
That is why, as leaders, our responsibility is to understand the realities of scarcity and build an environment of abundance, of collaboration, of trust that bridges beyond our in-groups and our out-groups—this environment of abundance. But to do that, brothers and sisters, you’ve got to know where you come from. You’ve got to know what scarcity really is. You can’t fool yourself into thinking that we’re beyond it, that it is savagery, because it’s right there—it’s right there in your solar plexus waiting for an opportunity, waiting for resistance to whisper in your ear that there is not going to be enough and it’s there.
The tip that I have for you is to learn to tame the elephant. There is an analogy—I forget the name of the book—it’s the elephant and the rider. The knowledge of scarcity and reality, the knowledge of all the things I’ve given you is the little rider sitting on top of the elephant. And that’s all well and good until the elephant gets spooked by a mouse or sees something that scares the crap out of it and then who’s in charge—the rider or the elephant? Well, what we want to do is we want to learn to tame that elephant both in ourselves and in our employees, our associates, our children, our prospects to be able to see the emergency of scarcity perception and meet them where they are and tamp down the emotions and get them ready to listen. This is what rooftop leaders do.
Here is what happens if you don’t do that. You have trust erosion in your business, trust erosion in your family. Groups start to form and what happens is speed goes down and costs go up. It is friction that you cannot sustain.
One of the guys I coach in my Spartan’s Rising group—a guy named Scott—he’s been looking for a job for a while. This guy is an experienced manager, really talented, and the market the way it is, he found himself out of one job and looking for a new job. It would be so easy for him to adopt a scarcity mindset as so many people do, but he’s got a wife who needs him. He’s got kids at home who are going through high school who need him. And you know what Scott has done? He has learned how to tame that elephant. He trains and he practices on the stuff I teach every day and what he has done is he has built this resilience that he tames the elephant and he keeps an abundance mindset. As a result of that, he has been like super dad through all of this. Not only is that dude going to find a job, he is going to land on his feet in an elite kind of way. That’s the guy you want in charge. That’s the guy you want to follow.
Even in the most extreme of circumstances, if we just put that abundance mindset first, we can overcome scarcity but we have to train for it. We have to know it’s there. I want you to stay dialed in with me on this because this is the kind of stuff I teach. Go to http://www.rooftopleadership.com and make sure you’re part of our mailing list. Also, the MannUp Report, my podcast that I do every couple of weeks. I talk about this kind of stuff and leadership lessons that matter to you. My job is to bring this to you as a trusted source.
So, remember, abundance over scarcity. Train for that when risk is low, not high, and prevent that in-group/out-group behavior from happening inside yourself and those around you.
Until next time, this is Scott Mann for the Rooftop Leadership Series. I’ll see you on the high ground.
David Scott Mann