Is Leading a Game of “King of the Hill”?

Do you remember the game “King of the Hill”? You tried to stay at the top of the hill by pushing others down. It was fun and I loved it. You wanted to be the one who survived. The last man standing. The one who got to be the King. We used to play that in the old neighborhood for hours on end.

As a kid, I never stopped to think about the nature of the game or the way it was played. I banks-blog-quote_10_06_16didn’t complain if I lost or made excuses on why I was not the king. I just came back the next day and tried again. It was a great feeling when you stood alone at the top of the hill with your arms raised. But truth be told, the power was fleeting and another game started just as quickly.

Throughout my career, there are times when I have wondered if some of us have incorporated King of the Hill and its rules into our professional lives.

Shift in perspective

I think it’s human to want to be the best at something. Recently, I read two articles that made me think about this more deeply: How to Become a CEO? The Quickest Path Is a Winding One and How the Best CEOs Get the Important Work Done. Obviously, they made me think of my childhood game and how something so fun when we are younger can have a very different outcome if we keep playing it while we are older.

What does it really take to be king (or queen) of something? Does it require us to keep others from rising? Spoiler alert: I believe that there is room for many; they just cannot all lead on the same hill at the same time. They need to work together to build more hills.

I believe, as leaders, we are responsible for creating opportunities for many kings and queens by leading our organizations to growth. I also believe that you do not need to push others down to bring yourself to the top. In fact, pressure to push others down correlates to the belief that there is only one hill. Maybe if our perspective shifts to creating more hills, we can support each other in building new opportunities, instead of fighting over a limited set of existing opportunities.

What it takes

So what do you need to get to the top of your hill?

  1. Desire – You have to want it. YOU – not your peers, not your spouse, but you. If you don’t really want it, then why are you climbing?
  2. Persistence – You must have a relentless willingness to stay after it; never settle.
  3. Resilience –Setbacks and failure will be part of the journey. Don’t let them derail or demotivate you, but be open to learning from each of them.
  4. Confidence – People tend to tell you what you can’t or why it will not work. You are going after it for a reason (see #1). Believe in yourself and your ability to keep climbing.
  5. Relationships – No matter what anyone tells you, they never did it on their own. Someone, somewhere helped. Relationships make everything easier, and more fun (no kid was ever able to play King of the Hill alone).
  6. Practice – Life is a big trial run. You need to practice every day. Immerse yourself directly and indirectly in experiences related to your hill.
  7. A long view – There are no shortcuts. Being the best takes a long-term investment.
  8. Ring on doorbells – Don’t push others out, when you can invite more people in. As kids, we would ring on doors to get as many people to join us on the hill as possible.

I leave you this week with this. Go out and play the game….but instead of using your time and energy pushing others down the hill, try to organize them around building and leading new hills. In this version of the game, there will be more people celebrating. Celebrating alone gets old quickly – and before you know it, you’re left wondering, “Where did everyone go?”