A couple of months ago I received a text from my former employer. It read, "Simon, I need you to come back so I can pay you way more money I'm really swamped with work its ridiculous. [sic]"
To be honest, I was surprised by this. I had quit four months earlier. He still had three other guys on the crew, and had just hired a new guy who I had begun to train to replace me. I had heard, through the guys still on the crew, that he had hired four guys after I left. Granted, he subsequently fired one, and another guy quit. Nonetheless, he was running a six-man crew, and the few times I'd run into subsequent to leaving, he'd made a point of telling me how good things were going for him and how busy he was.
What I came to realize was that he still couldn't replace me, even with a larger crew. The reason I was irreplaceable was because I had submitted to him completely.
While I was in his employ, my attitude towards working for him was that it was my job to make sure that he turned as large a profit as possible with as few headaches as possible, and so I took it upon myself to master his business as completely as possible and manage his job sites as professionally as possible. I was promoted to foreman within a year of working for him, and was put in charge of managing the most difficult employee he had.
I didn't particularly enjoy working for my former boss, but I can say with complete confidence that I was the best employee he ever had. I showed up on time, worked full shifts, volunteered for all possible off-hour jobs, rarely asked for time off and gave plenty of notice when I did, made sure the crew had all the necessary supplies, made sure jobs were completed, made sure all the details were taken care of, addressed customer complaints directly, and made sure all job sites were clean and free of mistakes before wrapping up. I volunteered for all the difficult work and crap assignments, and made a point of praising my boss whenever customers asked about him. And then I quit.
Now, my point in all this isn't that I'm amazing or impressive (although I am, natch). My point is that, ultimately, those who live in complete submission to authority are functionally in control of the relationship. Because I submitted to my boss as completely as I could, I was functionally the one in charge of the relationship because through my submission I became increasingly irreplaceable while he became more replaceable. When I gave him my three weeks notice, his immediate response was to offer me an 18% raise. His latest offer was to nearly double what I'd been making before.
The irony in all of this is that I would not have been so valuable to him had I never submitted to him. By respecting his authority as my boss and doing everything I could to make his business as profitable as possible, I became indispensable. But I never could have become so valuable if I did not recognize and submit to his authority.
The truth about leadership and submission, then, is that authority belongs to those who lead but power belongs to those who follow. Thus, a leader without followers is powerless. An authority that does not inspire submission is impotent. The meek, as it were, will inherit the earth.