Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

Sturgeon’s Law and Tri-Lateral Leadership Ledgers

Posted by Orrin Woodward on May 31, 2011

Here is a snippet from the leadership resolution chapter of my upcoming book. Enjoy. God Bless, Orrin Woodward

What’s the Tri-Lateral Leadership Ledger?
Chris Brady and I, in our New York Times best seller, Launching a Leadership Revolution (LLR), taught, in chapter four, the Tri-Lateral Leadership Ledger (TLL), a measurement of one’s leadership abilities.  Every leader must grow in his character, task and relationships, in order to lead at the highest levels.  Each of the three areas interact with one another, allowing leadership to grow when one grows personally.  The TLL measured Character, Task, and Relationships, on a scale from zero to ten, multiplying each of these scores together (review LLR for more detail) to obtain the total score.  For example, if someone rated themselves a two on Character, a one on Task, and a two on Relationships, then the total score would be 2*1*2 = 4.  The lowest score, one which many, including the author, score when they start their leadership journey is zero.  The highest score, one which no reader will ever obtain is one thousand – 10*10*10 = 1,000.  Perfection, although strived for daily, will never be achieved, since no one reading this is perfect, but the TLL has helped tens of thousands of people to evaluate their current leadership score, helping them identify areas in need of further improvement.

Who is Theodore Sturgeon?
Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction writer, in 1958, in an attempt to refute the many critics of science fiction, wrote,  “I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other art forms.”  Sturgeon’s Law validated a truth proven again and again in our mass participation internet age. For example, if a person were to review all YouTube videos, he would find the majority (90%) were crud, but the remaining 10% were informative or entertaining. The content providers for Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, display the same trends, with less than 10% of the content authors providing around 90% of the useful content. Another example is American Idol, where numerous contestants audition for the opportunity to showcase their talents on TV.  Can anyone imagine having to listen to every person who auditions for the show?  Tens of thousands audition, but only the best ever are viewed by TV audiences.  Is anyone shocked that 90% of contestants are eliminated quickly, since American Idol follows Sturgeon’s Law, as all human endeavors do?  The remaining contestants, the 10% with real talent, are evaluated further, eventually filtering down to the select few who appear on TV.  One shouldn’t criticize American Idol because 90% of the auditions are poor or outright bad, as it couldn’t be otherwise by the simple truth of humanity shared in Sturgeon’s Law.

Let’s Combine TLL with Sturgeon’s Law
By studying and analyzing Sturgeon’s Law further, one realizes that it represents beautifully the art of leadership, the idea that anyone can lead, but few will, simply because leadership is tough, requiring a focused disciplined approach.  This doesn’t mean people are crud, but only that their leadership development still needs work to be effective. The TLL reveals that leaders must be effective in three key leadership attributes – Character, Task and Relationships. In other words, leaders must advance into the elite 10% of Sturgeon’s Law in each key area.  Sturgeon’s Law, when applied to the TLL, reveals that only 10% of the people will excel in character, task, or relationships, but a leader must excel at all three; therefore, Sturgeon’s Law reveals that only 10%x10%x10% will excel in all three areas, explaining why true leadership occurs one in a thousand, in a typical community.  In other words, only 1 out of 1000 people will ever discipline his character, task, and relationships, breaking through Sturgeon’s Law, entering into the select group of leaders who influence others in a positive direction.  This number, 1 out of a 1,000, is the estimate used by leadership gurus around the world, even those who have never heard of Sturgeon’s Law of the TriLateral Leadership Ledger.  Gladwell reports that a performer can build and maintain a community of around 100-150 people, but a leader, someone who is mastering leadership, who leads performers (see LLR book) of these 100-150 people groups will develop about once in a thousand people.    In any community,  a thousand people won’t just gather by themselves, rather, it requires a leader at the highest levels of TLL achievement to attract, serve, and lead them. Performers then, can build an organization of around 100-150 people, but if one is building in a community of thousand of people, then leaders are required, people who break through Sturgeon’s Law on all three attributes of the TLL.

What is Your Score?
Study each of three attributes of leadership in the TLL. The common tendency is for a person to overrate himself when tabulating his TLL score.  But, with the increase in tribes and communities, a simple reality check for the TLL score is to compare one’s results with one’s following.  For example, if a person has around 100 people attending in his tribe, then his TLL score is around 50 points, but by developing three performers who can lead 100 people each, his TLL grows to 150 points. Top leaders, with over 1000 people attending community get togethers, score over 300 points on their TLL evaluations. By knowing the total score, a person can backtrack and calculate individual score in Character, Task, and Relationships, multiplying them together to ensure he is not suffering from self-delusion.  Every leader has room to grow because no one reading this will hit anywhere close to 1000 points, with few, very few, ever hitting above 500 points.  This leads to Woodward’s Law, a natural leadership corollary to Sturgeon’s Law, stating, “90% of leaders are convinced they are part of Sturgeon’s 10%”  In other words, even though only 10% of the people will ever truly lead at the upper echelons in any category, the single biggest reason that most leaders do not continue the growth journey, is that most believe they have already arrived.  Good truly is the enemy of great.  This may sound strong, but self-deception has ended more leadership careers than any other factor.  When a person lies to himself, why is anyone shocked that he starts lying to others?  Sadly, most people would rather live with comfortable lies than deal with uncomfortable truths. Similar to the proverbial ostrich, who sticks his head in the sand, hoping to avoid the hungry lion by refusing to acknowledge him, but not surprisingly, this doesn’t alter the lion’s dinner plans. It’s only when a leader grows personally over a lifetime, that he attracts other leaders into his community or tribe, leaders who lead organizations of thousands themselves, changing the lifetime leader into a servant of other top leaders.  A leaders of this magnitude refuses to work for time punchers, dictators, or micro-managers, but loves responsibility and feeding on visionary leadership.  Imagine developing into a servant leader, thus attracting leaders into one’s community, forming a tribe of volunteers who can lead change in any field they set their minds to. Leadership then, isn’t a nice add on feature, but an essential part of every world-changer, as John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

4 Responses to “Sturgeon’s Law and Tri-Lateral Leadership Ledgers”

  1. wildtarg said

    Amazing. I remember this synthesis of ideas on one of your audio talks, and it is tremendously revealing.

    I, for some reason, find myself drawing parallells between this analysis and a piece of speculative science fiction (a peculiar twist in light of Sturgeon’s Law arising out of the defense of science fiction); the Star Trek Technical Manual.

    Written by the two chief technical editors of Gene Roddenberry’s production team in the ’90s, it was a focused attempt to integrate the wide cast of technical jargon and factoids of a fictional setting into a comprehensive, cohesive work of entertaining and informative fiction. I feel that it was successful. I find that it has some passing relevance to this discussion because it included not only hypothetical physics and materials, but also took into account modern-day realities of the problems of long-term travel, personnel management and productivity, and even leadership. Spacefaring today is not unlike the state of sea travel five thousand years ago; perilous, promising, and in practically pre-natal stages.

    At one point the book says something like ‘How to keep over a thousand people operating at peak efficiency over long periods of time is a daunting problem, to say the least.’ This was one of the very first works that opened my science-oriented mind to the awareness that people problems are at least as important and difficult as technical problems; in today’s world they are becoming the primary consideration, even over logistics and technology.

    A starship is a hypothetical environment that is optimized to handle the challenges and dangers of travel through space -AND ALSO- optimized to handle the needs and demands of the human crew that live and work in it. Such a construct would be both a colossal challenge and monumental triumph in real life. But what I see is that while balancing the demands of human life and and livelihood, and those of space travel, is tremendously demanding and complex, perhaps equally so is the challenge of nuturing and developing the human spirit to be in balance and harmony with the human animal, in a time when the animal is spoiled and overstimulated, and the spirit is neglected, even ignored or assaulted – all but forgotten. That, I think, is the challenge of modern leadership.

  2. […] Ledger from their best-selling book Launching A Leadership Revolution.  In the article  Sturgeon’s Law and Tri-Lateral Leadership Ledgers, Orrin wrote about this, reiterating the basics of Character, Tasks and Relationships as the […]

  3. […] Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of Everything is Junk! […]

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