From Your Crew: Why We Ask “How High” When You Tell Us To Jump

Most of you have probably heard someone you know, when bragging about their leadership skills, tell you “When I tell them to jump, they say ‘How high?’”. I guess you are supposed to assume that the jumpers do it from an abundance of concern for satisfying the most particular nature of the speaker’s demands, thus implying that the speaker holds such power that his or her workers spend extra time meeting even his or her most specific or even trivial requests. The speaker probably doesn’t expect you to question why their workers assume s/he has a need to micromanage every task (or that you will further question what that says about the speaker’s opinion of your skills as an independent thinker?). To keep your mind from wandering too far down that path, let me explain not the speaker’s mind, but go right to the true motives of their crew.

As a crew member, I know the speaker (let’s just call him or her “fearless leader”, or even “fearless” for short) does have the financial resources and personal or political connections to hold his/her current position, but is really a wannabee who got their leadership skills from studying Hollywood blockbusters or listening to other wannabees further up the chain of command. S/he hasn’t taken the time to learn the capabilities of their team or understand the complexity of the problem at hand, but s/he does really like to bark orders. As a member of fearless’ crew, my motives are simple – I want to stroke his or her ego and get out of serious work. I may have been on my school track team, but if fearless is satisfied with me jumping four inches off the ground, that’s fine with me. S/he doesn’t actually know the demands of the assignment anyway.

If fearless had a hangover, and I was asked to stand in for him or her one day, my crew would know not to ask frivolous questions. If one of my men did ask “How high?”, I would stop and have him jump as high as he could fifty times while other members of the crew documented the results. If the last jump didn’t measure up, I’d fire him on the spot.

My crew would know two things:

  1. I expect them to give 100%. If he was on the track team, I would expect him to excel. If the situation only demanded a 4″ jump, I would have assigned it to someone else. If the job demanded a spacecraft to be built, I’d give the job to my rocket scientist (which would probably be a different person than my track star).
  2. I expect my crew to understand the nature and needs of the assignment in front of them and work it out. Whether the job demanded a 36-inch or a 24-inch high jump, I would expect my track star to be able to figure it out and complete the job without further guidance. At the same time, I expect my team members to know their capabilities and understand their limitations, as well as the other capabilities within the team so that if there is a mismatch, we, as a team, can effectively deal with it.

Is any of this too much to ask?

Any questions?

Published by


An old liberal of unspecified race, gender, size, and sexual orientation that believes in both God and science and is not the least bit intimidated by numbers.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: