In this short video, we offer examples and insights into the power of front-line leadership.


“I want to tell you a story about the power of leadership, but it was a story Bing Gordon told about when he was in Electronic Arts years ago. And Electronic Arts is a games company (also known as EA Games), and he challenged new hires to see if they could do something, what he called a “kill-it” goal. What he meant was, if you could do this in the first week, you would be an extraordinary hire.

He challenged his new hires this way, and he tells a story about one young fellow, just out of college, that he put on a team that they’re building what they call quests, game quests. And they needed to get 100 of these game quests out in the next 90 days before they could release their new product to the marketplace. So he puts this sixth person on the team. There’s already five there, and they’ve got 90 days to complete these 100 quests, and he puts this sixth new hire and says, he kind of challenges him, he says, “You know, if you could do one quest in the first week, you would be a rock star because our guys here are only averaging 1.6, and they’ve been here for years.”
So you see the setting? There’s leadership involved here, leadership by his boss and self-leadership by the individual, and this individual takes this to heart. He wants to hit the ground running. And by Wednesday of that week, he starts to realize that the tools they’re using to build these quests are not very good, and he sees some ways to fix them. So he goes to his boss, who is not the guy who hired him, and says, “I’d like to change these.” And his boss says, “No, really, you shouldn’t do that right now. It would be disruptive to the rest of the team.” He goes around his boss to the guy that hires him and says, “I think I could do this a lot faster if we fix this.” And the guy who hires him says, “Well, can you do this on your own? Can you make this happen without disrupting the team?” He says, “I think I can.”

And you know what happened? The end of this story is that he changed the software, and by the following Monday, which was one week, he finished his one and all 99 of the work of the other five. So in one week, he finished 15 man-months’ worth of work.

What made this happen? What unlocked this? Well, it’s self-leadership. It’s leadership from his team member. It’s the idea of challenging someone and giving them the opportunity to go out, color outside the lines, and make something happen. I can’t overstate how critical self-leadership is.

So let me finish with this quote: “Leadership is not magnetic personality. That can just as well be a glib tongue. It’s not making friends and influencing people. That could be flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” Top performing organizations have to cope with this challenge of building leadership.

Learn more about Six Discipline’s Leadership Development approach