Byron's Babbles

Having A Sharp Eye For Capacity

Mark Twain said, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Unfortunately, Twain was taken advantage of more than once during his life. But he always tried to “do right.” I am reading Mark Twain’s autobiography right now and it is amazing. He dictated much of his autobiography and purposely wrote it as memories came to mind, not in chronology order. For some of my more linear friends this might drive you crazy. Those that know me, know I am loving this non-conventional approach. I love it because in his “twittering” (yes that is a word used by Twain a great deal and I now know where the name for Twitter came from) he talks about friends, how he met them, and his interactions.

One such friend was Henry Huttleston Rogers, the Standard-Oil magnate who became one of the most powerful tycoons of his day. Twain first met Rogers in New York in 1893 at a time when Twain’s unfortunate financial ventures had led him to the verge of bankruptcy. Rogers helped sort out Twain’s commercial enterprises and saved the author’s copyrights. In the autobiography, Twain expressed his gratitude saying, “His wisdom and steadfastness saved my copyrights from being swallowed up in the wreck…and his commercial wisdom has protected my pocketbook ever since.” These two became great and very close friends.

One of the things that Twain recognized in Rogers was “he [Rogers] has a sharp eye for capacity.” I love that Twain picked up on Roger’s ability to see the talent and ability in others and then develop those individuals. Twain discussed this being one of the key ingredients of Rogers’ success. This just shows how important it is for leaders to hone this skill, or find ways to sharpen the eye for capacity. I was working with a group of school principals yesterday and we were discussing this very subject.

We can distill the notion of capacity to the skills, knowledge and abilities of an individual. We must sharpen our ability to recognize capacity and then build that capacity in people. Consequently, our teams and organizations will become more resilient and stronger. The greatest leaders recognize and build on the strengths of others and what they have to say. They are a voice among many in conversations, and not just a voice that tells others what to do. As Twain said in his autobiography, “If everybody was satisfied with himself there would be no heroes.” Let’s not be satisfied. Let’s work hard to recognize and build capacity in those we serve.


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