Issue Number 36: Leadership: Leadership and the Rule of Reciprocation

One of the best leaders I have ever known was Ed Knowles. Ed was an avuncular figure who reminded me of Franklin Roosevelt. One day he told me he wanted me to run the next client meeting. This was a great opportunity for a junior employee, but when I mentioned it to a colleague he said, “I feel sorry for you. If you don’t do a good job in front of this client, your career here is over!”

Over the next few days I became increasingly concerned, and finally told Ed I was worried that I might not be ready, and didn’t want to embarrass either of us. I can still hear his response. He said that if I did my best and it went well, I would receive the credit, and if it didn’t go well, he would take the blame.

Ed demonstrated what another of my favorite writers, Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” calls “the rule of reciprocation.” Ed gave us something of immense value first – his trust – and we gave him something of value in return – our loyalty. I am still passing along his legacy.

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