LEADERSHIP MATH: do you add or subtract value?


A couple of weeks ago, my sister shared how she spent several hours watching videos about savants, people who have exceptional mental abilities. These individuals have a certain expertise in a certain field and have an amazing super-talent that makes them extraordinary people, though perhaps limited in other areas. For example, there is Kim Peek who was the inspiration behind the Oscar-winning film, Rain Man who has has amazing ability to recall random details about nearly everything from sports to politics and to even the minutiae of the British monarchy.


This led me to watch another video of another savant named Daniel Tammet. Everything he experienced was a number. For example, on the David Letterman show he explained he doesn’t just see a number; he has an experience complete with colors and abstract ideas. It was funny to see him tell David Letterman that he is like the number 117, because it is “a handsome number…it’s tall…it’s a lanky number… a little bit wobbly…”


Right after I finished watching the interview, my mind went off into my crazy, creative world and I started to imagine if we all had the same ability of Daniel Tammet and we were able to see the world through just “arithmetic lenses.” What symbol would I be? What symbol would others be? Would I be the plus symbol, the minus symbol, the multiplication symbol, or the division symbol? Which one would you be?


Would you be the PLUS symbol? A person who adds value to others, is a positive force, seeks to build up others, and when joined with others always creates growth.  Are you a team player, an encourager, a add-value-to-whatever-situation-God-puts-me-in kind of leader? If “I am Second” is your motto then “+” should be your symbol.


Would you be the MINUS symbol? Contrary to the plus symbol, a minus sign characterizes the opposite. It would reflect a person who subtracts value from others, a negative force, seeks to destroy others, and when joined with others, they end up with less, not more. Do you find yourself tearing down what others build up? Do you criticize, peck, poke, and dismantle with your words, actions, and attitudes. Take a hard look at yourself. Putting God First in life also means putting others before yourself.


Would you be the MULTIPLICATION symbol? A person who not only adds value to others, but seeks to replicate himself/herself, train others to go behind even themselves, and spurs others to grow and become greater. This person not only doesn’t mind when others are promoted or find success, but consider it a badge of honor to be a part of others’ successes. Are you others’ biggest cheerleader? Do you find yourself hoarding all the big projects or inspiring others to step up and lead? Seconds not only add value, they multiply it.


Would you be the DIVISION symbol? Contrary to the multiplication symbol, the division sign signifies a divisive person, someone looking to split and separate others and constantly finds themselves seeking to minimize the value of others. Do you have a habit of lessening the goodness of others by always putting others down. Would “malicious” describe your nature. Do people pick you to be on their team or avoid you like the plague?


If you were to evaluate yourself through these make-belief “arithmetic lenses,” what symbol would you be?


You see, I believe that we as leaders should strive to be those individuals that others long to spend time with, because we are adding value to them and want to see others excel beyond our own leadership. Nobody wants to be around condescending, with a bad attitude, argumentative, or always looking for negative things in someone else’s life, instead of highlighting the best. Yes, there is a time to discuss areas that need improvement, but the attitude or lenses that we choose to put on makes a big difference on how those that we are leading will either embrace or reject our leadership.


This is my point: an I am Second leader is one that seeks to place others first, to serve, and to inspire others into positive action. Not someone who only looks out for their own position and well-being in their organization or company, but INTENTIONALLY seeks to lift others up as he or she is lifting up Jesus in their own personal lives.


Oscar Castillo is Executive Director of Yo Soy Segundo, the spanish initiative for I am Second, and he travels all over the spanish speaking world addressing audiences about leadership development, cross cultural engagement, and has been on several television and radio shows representing the I am Second movement. Interested in having him speak at your event? Contact sylvia.boyle@e3partners.org.