It was my sophomore year of college. I was an arts major in my undergraduate work and I needed one math class. Only one, which was one too many. Math is my arch nemesis. Every good story has an evil villain. Rocky had Apollo Creed. Peter Pan had Captain Hook. Captain Ahab had the elusive Moby Dick. And me? I had College Algebra. Yuck.
Yet, like everyone who has conquered a challenge, I learned something. You might assume I learned Algebra. I did, but I've forgotten most of it. What I haven't forgotten is the bigger lesson I learned from math. I can't stand arithmetic, but I've always had an interest in principals that have stood the test of time. While I have little affinity for decimals and differentials, I have significant interest in the ability of anything to endure. To that end, there may be no better place to look for absolute truths than math.
The thing about many ancient mathematical principles (an I'm sure a lot of other modern math that I don't understand) is that is applies to so much more than simple triangles and compound interest equations. These tested principals apply to many areas of life, including that of leadership. We could look to some of the most well known and attributed ideas of geometry from an ancient Greek mathematician, Euclid of Alexandria. It was Euclid himself who said, "the laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God."
He, amongst other things, advanced a set of rules and mathematical definitions called The Elements.
We wouldn't be the first people to benefit from them outside of the mathematical world. US President Abraham Lincoln is said to have carried the writings of Euclid with him. As a practicing lawyer, he studied them regularly to learn more about proof, leadership, and decision making. So what can we learn from Euclid? I'll give you a few starters:
Common Notion #1: Things Which Are Equal To The Same Thing are Equal To Each Other
If two things, even seemingly different from one another, are equal to the same outcome that these things are equal to each other. In more common terms we might simply say, "there's more than one way to skin a cat." The point leaders is simply this: there are often multiple paths to the same outcome. 2+2=4 and 1+3=4 thus 2+2=1+3. Don't get too caught up in the path, be more focused on the destination. Specifically in a creative economy, we must allow team members a certain amount of freedom and responsibility to perform. Let the results speak louder than the path.
Common Notion #4: Things Which Coincide with One Another are Equal to One Another
Say you have two triangle pieces of a puzzle laying on the table. How do you know if they are the same? Well, one quick test is to simply lay them on top of each other. If they line up exactly, they're the same. We know now their sides are the same, their angles are the same, their area is the same, etc. We do this as leaders as well when we make decisions. We may have multiple options infront of us to choose from, but could some of them really be the same thing masquerading as different? Sometimes the best move is to take a close look at the options. Often what appears to be opposing ideas at first pass may not be all that different once your line them up and examine them. Options that coincide are equal.
Common Notion #5: The Whole is Greater than the Part
There may be no leadership lesson more important than this. Great teams accomplish more as a whole than any individual could accomplish alone. Teams are more than a simple collection of people doing individual work. Teams work together and, in doing so, create something greater than the sum of it's parts. It's the goal of teamwork - the goal goal of team leaders.