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  • Writer's pictureBurk Moreland

The Law of Process

Last month, you read about The Law of Connection from John Maxwell’s 21 irrefutable Laws of Leadership, this month is The Law of Process. This law states that leadership develops daily, not in a day. It is a process, not a sudden right or ability. A great analogy for this is that leaders aren’t microwaved; they are slowly simmered over a long period of time. Patience is key, and this, is why I struggle.

My favorite story on this law is from my college days. I got a job at a company called Johnson Controls that did building maintenance for Continental Airlines. My dad got me the job as a character-building job. We made sure the lights, air conditioners, toilets, etc. were all in working order… Anyone else been 18? I was a bit full of myself as many 18- year-olds are. I knew everything. I worked with several guys that were all over the age of forty and were experts in their field, but after a few months of working there, the boss decided to have me start doling out the jobs each day and checking to be sure they were done. I was a manager already! Needless to say, my ego inflated and I viewed myself as the new boss. I was anointed the new leader! Not a good move…

After a few days of watching me walk around like I owned the place, the guys decided to knock me down a peg or two. Ever had this happen? It can be painful… One of our tickets for the day was a clogged toilet in the women’s restroom in one of the buildings. None of them would take the ticket and the boss told me to do the job. They gave me—an air hammer. For those of you that don’t know, this is a device that has a plunger on one end and an air compressor on the other. You plug it in, turn it on, and build up the pressure in the compressor, put the plunger over the hole in the bottom of the toilet bowl, pull the trigger and it blows the clog through the pipe with air pressure. Sounds easy, right? When you’re 18 and full of yourself, you don’t ask too many questions. Again, not a good move… I held my head high as I entered the building. In my professional voice, I knocked on the door and yelled ‘Maintenance! Anyone in here!’ There was no answer, so I went in the restroom and immediately, my eyes watered and I could barely breath. It was horrible… I don’t know what they were feeding these people, but it needed to change. I ran back out of the door and doubled over… I don’t think you understand… something had to have died in there… I thought about going back and saying I couldn’t do it, but my 18-year-old testosterone kicked in. I will not go ask for help! Third bad choice… I charged up the pressure on the air hammer in the hallway… Took a deep breath, and burst through the door like Rambo into a compound! I went straight to the stall and slammed my weapon into the offending bowl. I quickly pulled the trigger and …BOOM… There was only one problem. I hadn’t seated the plunger well on the bottom of the bowl. It hadn’t cleared the clog; it just blew the contents of the bowl all over the stall and the not very bright 18 year old that didn’t ask for instructions. As I tried to figure out how I was going to save my young ego on this one, all I heard was the loudest laughter I have ever heard. I slowly opened the stall door to see my coworkers. The guys had followed me in and were listening and watching my every move.

They taught me a lesson.. Actually several: First, stay in school. Second, always wear a rain suit when you use an air hammer, and be sure it is seated properly. Third, and most important, they taught me that I was not really a leader yet, or anything close. I had been given the opportunity to start to learn how to lead, but it would take more than being given a position, title or responsibility. It takes time and effort.

The law of process is vitally important for anyone wanting to lead. If you can’t accept that it is going to take time for you to develop your skills, or worse yet, you believe all you need is to be given the position, your tenure as leader will not last long. Very quickly, you will find yourself on the wrong end of an air hammer with something worse than egg on your face…

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