Category Archives: Essay

Should everyone be a leader?

I’ve been thinking about leadership lately.

Many children’s programs are designed to foster leadership skills. Why? Does this imply that everyone should have leadership skills? That everyone should be a leader?

This interests me because for the longest time, I never felt like a “Leader”. I didn’t have anything in common with “Leaders” I saw. It didn’t resonate.

But I’ve realized the answer is yes. Everyone should learn leadership skills.

Even if you have no aspirations to start a company or lead a nation, leadership is everywhere.

It’s obviously present on smaller scales — in local organizations, communities, and workplaces. And even if you don’t aspire to be at the top, in any non-trivial organization, it’s still leadership all the way down. Even if you explicitly reject managing people, you can still find yourself as a leader — for example, being a skilled individual specialist carries leadership in its own way.

But less obviously, as soon as you start any kind of project or endeavor of any kind — guess what, you’re now a leader. Any kind of pursuit creates an opening for a leader. By default, the creator fills the role.

Examples of endeavors:

  • Starting a family
  • Co-creating a relationship
  • Organizing a party
  • Planning a trip
  • A creative practice

Without leadership, you can only ever be a “leaf” node, at the end of the chain. Without leadership, you can only ever be a consumer, a viewer, an audience member.

Even if you never start any endeavor, at the very least, you are the leader of your own life. (Which, by the way, is a creative project.)

So, yes, everyone should have leadership skills — not because everyone “should” be a leader, but because everyone already is.

Location Capital

Traditional forms of capital include money, relationships, and health. There’s another I’ve discovered but never heard mentioned before: location capital.

Location capital is how much experience you have with a physical place on Earth. For example, if you have a lot of New York City capital, you’re the one that knows all the cool restaurants and bars in NYC. Friends ask for recommendations for the perfect spot for their birthday.

Everyone has location capital of some kind. But no one can have all the location capital for every place, so everyone (even Jeff Bezos) needs to decide what places are most important for them to build capital in.

It’s useful to be aware of location capital because it can affect your decisions around where you spend time.

Let’s say you’re alone and deciding whether to eat out at a restaurant you’ve never been to. What’s the cost/benefit? In exchange for money, you get good food and save time & labor (from not cooking/cleaning/grocery shopping).

But that’s not all — because you’re going to a new restaurant, you also build location capital. This is a one-time “boost” you get from going to a new place. On further visits you’ll still get some, but less.

Your decision will ultimately depend on how much you value food, time, labor, money, and location capital.

Location capital can also act as a hedge against risk. If you’re planning a date, preferring a new place will help make sure your time isn’t totally wasted if the date goes poorly.

I wish I was aware of location capital sooner. I used to prefer staying in over eating out in order to save money. But now I realize those decisions came with opportunity cost. And as a result, I’ve built less capital for the cities I’ve previously “lived” in than I’d like.

In general, I think it’s a good policy to always be building capital (mostly the non-monetary kinds). Location capital is an interesting form of it and being aware of it can influence how you live your life.

Remote onboarding

The biggest challenge when onboarding remotely was getting a feel for the culture. Without this, you have to play it safe and act conservatively (i.e. maximally professionally), however it can be draining to always be so buttoned-up.

The two things that helped me feel more comfortable were:

1. Seeing “micro unprofessionalisms” during zoom calls.

One colleague had a large drawing of “No Face” from Spirited Away on his wall.

Another’s cat jumped onto the desk, and then a baby ran into the room.

Another just had a mess in the background.

All of these show humanity and personality. They let the new team member know that the tone is relaxed and that there’s no need to stress over behaving perfectly “professionally”.

2. Getting hints from coworkers about work norms.

I have a coworker that’s brutally productive. But one day he said, “I’m going to be out for a few hours this afternoon to get my trombone fixed.”

It’s easy to overlook such a remark if you’re been on the team a while. But for a new joiner, even small comments like this provide valuable insight into what is and isn’t acceptable on their new team.

To make your new team member’s remote onboarding experience more comfortable, be intentional about showing humanity — visibly display things that are unique to you (and un-blur your background). Also, remember that your team’s culture exists, must be learned, and can be proactively communicated.