We have a dog named Ben, although I sometimes think of him as Agent Smith because he so closely resembles a Secret Service agent in the way he shadows my wife, Ana. From room to room, household chore to teleconference, day or night—whatever task Ana is involved in, you will find Ben on the job, blending into the background, standing guard with unflagging vigilance.
Know how to spell devotion? D-o-g.
Wouldn’t dogs make great downlines? Once a dog has identified you as his leader, he’ll do anything you say. Got a new group volume target? Easy. Fetch, you say—and the whole downline dashes off across the field in dogged search of the stick you threw. Give a little acknowledgment, a little praise, a scratch behind the ears, and they’ll follow you anywhere.
Cats … not so much.
I grew up with a cat. She was devoted, too: would sleep on my bed, even lick my hair while I slept so that I would wake up spiky-haired, as if I’d time-traveled in my sleep and had precognitive 1961 visions of punk-rock hair styles. In this, she was somewhat doglike. But you could push her only so far.
Care for a cat and she will follow you, but only in the way of cats, which is to say, at a distance and on her own terms.
The truth of people is that they are neither dogs nor cats, but people. Still, Jung said we each embody both animus and anima. My observation: we also contain aniwoof and animeow.
Which brings us to leadership.
Stephen Covey talks about structural authority, the sort of leadership that comes automatically with the position of captain, general or boss; and moral authority, that which arises organically from one’s own character. Gandhi was a great example of the latter. He held no formal government position yet wielded such formidable gravitational pull that he countermanded the entire British empire, establishing the largest democracy in the world. Yet Gandhi didn’t have the “power” to appoint or dismiss a single government employee.
That’s the thing about the network marketing relationship: it carries zero structural authority. You are not your downline’s boss. You don’t hire them, can’t fire them, and have no way to impel them to do what you want them to do.
There is a fine line between helping someone stay accountable to her goals and commitments, and giving her marching orders. People don’t join networks to gain a new boss.
To the degree that you care about people and look out for their interests, you generate a field of moral authority that beckons them to follow, and they do. Woof. But try saying, “Fetch!” and just watch their feline nature emerge. Meow.
JOHN DAVID MANN is Consulting Editor of Networking Times.