245. What Goldilocks Can Teach You About Successful Leadership
To understand successful leadership, you need to first understand why Goldilocks is such a high-maintenance pain in the butt. Here's the Goldilocks Principle in effect.
Goldilocks is a criminal.
Everybody always talks about the three Bears. Nobody ever talks about the three crimes.
Sure the Bears were upset, but you don’t have to be a lawyer to recognize they’ve got a pretty open-and-shut case to send young Goldilocks up for an extended stay in the State pokey.
According to the records:
She broke into a family’s home and began eating all their food. That’s called Breaking & Entering.
Let’s not forget that she destroyed at least one chair. We usually call this Vandalism.
In a dramatic display of nerve, she lay her grimy, dirty, forest-ridden body all over the Bears’ clean sheets and fell asleep. That is called Squatting.
She’d be easily convicted. I mean, it’s all laid out in writing.
Oh also… Goldie is pretty darn high-maintenance, especially for a tired, starving criminal.
She’s hungry enough to break into somebody’s house yet still complains that the food is not the right temperature.
She’s too tired to walk home yet still complains that the chairs are too hard or too soft.
This gal must be a nightmare to live with.
Which reminds me…
The Leadership Lessons From 11-Year-Olds
My daughter turned 11 years old recently. She had a sleepover party with eight of her current besties. They all play well together. They all get along fabulously. They all laugh and dance and galavant as one.
They are like a tween-version of a murmuration: so in tune with each other that they fly back and forth in perfect unison with seemingly thoughtless effort.
But that doesn’t mean every one of them is the same.
Far from it.
Once the loud roar of sugar-mounted madness reached its peak, my wife and I herded the girls into the den for a little calming movie time.
“Let’s watch a scary movie!” one of the girls yelled.
Some of the gals thought a scary movie was a good idea. Others claimed they’d be too scared and have nightmares.
OK, nix that idea.
“How about Charlotte’s Web?” another girl offered.
A few complained that they were too sensitive and would cry too much. Others thought it was too young. And at least one gal was a wee bit too excited for the slaughtering scene.
Definitely nix that idea.
My point is that even with people who seem very similar, emotional reactions to the same stimuli vary on a grand spectrum.
And this brings us back to Goldilocks and her high-maintenance criminal behavior.
Successful Leadership On The Spectrum
It’s hard for people to change, especially when they can’t see the benefits of that change.
In my change management consulting work, I witness this all the time.
For instance, it’s common to see company founders achieve some initial level of success by making all the decisions and having all the answers. However, by the time they grow the company to 30 or more people, their ability to make all the decisions suddenly switches from a growth driver to a culture killer.
Most often, the founders have a tough time recognizing how different behavior will benefit them, because they haven’t experienced the other ways of acting.
That’s when I’m brought in.
The fact is, even Goldilocks didn’t know the porridge, chair, or bed were “just right” until she realized the other options were wrong.
This forms the basis of something called the Goldilocks Principle.
The Goldilocks Principle
The Goldilocks Principle is the belief that people are most likely to seek the 'just right” amount of something.
One example of this was our attempt to find the perfect movie for a giggling gaggle of 11-year-old girls. The first movie suggestion was too strong, the second was too weak. And we kept trying until we found the solution that was just right.
[Editor’s Note: The Emoji Movie]
You’ve probably seen another nifty example of the Goldilocks Principle one hundred times without realizing it. It comes in the context of pricing for SaaS offerings.
SaaS pricing models are all structured very similarly. They all tend to look something like this:
You’ll notice that there are often three offerings: one low, one high, and one in the middle. You’ll also see (assuming you’re neither a cat nor a skate) that the middle one is usually highlighted - guiding people toward the option that is “just right”.
That’s the option most people will take.
That’s the Goldilocks Principle in effect.
In the words of infomercial and veg-o-matic superstar, Ron Popeil:
But wait, there’s more…
The Goldilocks Principle and Successful Leadership
The Goldilocks Principle is directly related to successful leadership. In fact, understanding the Goldilocks Principle is critical to developing the behaviors that will make you a successful leader.
[Editors Note: Get ready, this is almost the part where you should be doing some self-reflection and note-taking]
Most leaders learn how to navigate through the Goldilocks Principle through years of trial and error. That’s how I learned it all - through many years of many errors.
Because I like you, I’m going to slice years off your leadership learning by revealing to you everything I know about this, right here, right now.
You are welcome. Don’t say I don’t care about you.
So here you go…
5 ways that Successful Leadership is defined by the Goldilocks Principle
❌ Too Little Delegation… results in the leader being the bottleneck. Company productivity tanks.
❌ Too Much Delegation… leads to feelings of being overwhelmed by the lack of leadership support.
✅ Just Right Delegation… is about empowering team members based on their strengths and capacities, while also supporting them and ensuring the ship stays on course.
❌ Too Little Decision-Making… by leadership causes frustration and stagnation.
❌ Too Much Decision-Making… by leadership makes them seem like an autocrat. Innovation will die like a fish in the desert.
✅ Just Right Decision-Making… empowers team members to make decisions relevant to their responsibilities. When larger decisions must be made, the leader considers data and feedback from others and then makes a decision.
❌ Too Little Transparency… results in people making up their own stories, and they’re usually not positive. It leads to a poor culture, rumor mills, and general distrust of leadership.
❌ Too Much Transparency… can overwhelm the team and have them stressed about things that don’t even concern them.
✅ Just Right Transparency… is clear, concise, and relevant communication that keeps the team informed, aligned, and inspired.
❌ Too Little Autonomy… will demotivate your team and destroy innovation.
❌ Too Much Autonomy… results in chaotic teams with a lack of unified direction.
✅ Just Right Autonomy… ensures everybody understands where their guardrails are, empowers them to do their jobs the best they can, and then supports and guides them in the process.
❌ Too Little Feedback… leaves people feeling unappreciated, which is the #1 reason people leave jobs
❌ Too Much Feedback… can be demoralizing and frustrating.
✅ Just Right Feedback… that is constructive and given at appropriate times makes people happy and encourages them to be more productive and innovative.
Where Are Your Leadership Principles In the Goldilocks Principle?
As we’ve discussed above, Goldilocks is a criminal. Arguably, my 11-year-old is a criminal too but, unlike the three Bears, I haven’t yet caught her in the act.
Either way, both of these young blonde and precocious criminals teach us a very important lesson about leadership and finding the Just Rightness of it all - which is odd to have come from somebody who did so much wrong. But, hey, the world can be an odd place.
So tell me, how are you and your leadership doing with the 5 ways the Goldilocks Principle applies to successful leadership?
Are you Just Right? Or are your efforts too criminal to mention?
Let me know — comment in the comment section, where the comments are supposed to go.
Sign up now and I won’t eat your porridge.
Somewhat Relevant Quote
“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”
John Maxwell - author, public speaker, pastor