Are You A King, Or A King-Maker?

30-44186042_b95f97031d_m.jpgI wrote yesterday about my dear friend Trey Pennington who I described as a king-maker. People really liked the analogy of being a king or king-maker, which isn’t surprising – but I wonder how many people really are making kings?

It’s far more rewarding, effective and exciting to be the king-maker, than trying to put yourself on the throne all the time. Ego is hard work, and trying to make yourself king is tiring. I’ve tried it before, and not only did I find it exhausting, but I found I wasn’t helping anyone else but myself.

You know how it is when someone is trying to be king – the ego casts a shadow a mile long, right? Not always. It can be very subtle. In fact, I find pretty much the whole of the Twitter community are trying to be kings. There’s nothing wrong with that, but doesn’t all this ‘share’ talk annoy you when the ones who shout ‘share’ really mean ‘share me?’

Those who are trying to be kings are always:

  • Trying to get attention, rather than give it
  • Trying to get traffic, than send it
  • Trying to get comments, rather than give them
  • Trying to sell, rather than buying
  • Trying to build the house, rather than build the hostel

The difference between these people, and king-makers, is that king-makers get attention, by giving it, and so on.

Of course some people are kings. But the best kings were king-makers first – and will always be king-makers – because these are the ones that better the country they lead.

Your Leading Thoughts

Every regular at this blog that comments aren’t self proclaimed – I know you all. So my question is:

  • Are you a king-maker. If yes, or if no, why?
  • If you’re not, shouldn’t you be?

Image courtesy of Timothy K Hamilton.

45 responses to “Are You A King, Or A King-Maker?”

  1. I know my place.

    I’m a queen/kingmaker.

    It’s an essential part of my strategy.

    My mission is to help them – you – succeed.

    It’s *all* about you and *your* success.

    What I say and do is only relevant to the extent that it tangibly and measurably helps you succeed.

    I exist to serve you; to wait on you; to be ‘weight-bearing’ for you.

    You can not only rely on it, you can bank on it.

    Best, Robin

    • Robin Dickinson says:

      This may sound counter-intuitive, but the true heart of king-making is your ability to *receive* – unless of course, your ambition is to be king. Understand receiving at a gut level and you understand king-making.

      Looking forward to catching up with you, Scott.

      Robin :)

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Robin

      “Understand receiving at a gut level and you understand king-making.”

      I might need help here with this!

      Looking forward to speaking soon,

    • Sure. Ready when you are.

      When I brief clients on king-making strategy and tactics they often struggle with the receiver-centric focus. It’s hard for them to get their heads around (initially).

      This confusion is the understandable because it is anathema to the acceptable dynamic of the ‘give and take’ economy (or more accurately: the ‘give’ in preparation to ‘get’ economy). The logic of giving generously to others, knowing that many will want to help you in return, is sound. It works. It’s the wonderful circle of give and take.

      Generosity marks the give-to-get behaviour.

      However, humility marks the king-maker.

      The give-to-get mindset invests valuable resources (content) to ‘help’ others.

      The king-maker sacrifices ego to submit to others.

      King-making is a very specialized approach that must be carefully unfolded to the right audience at the right time. It is incredibly powerful in the right hands, but can easily backfire through misunderstanding and careless haste – especially with words like ‘humility’ ‘ego’ etc.

      Let’s pick up this conversation on Skype (maybe pull a few of us together for a group call).

      Best, Robin :)

    • Scott Gould says:


      Thanks for making this clearer.

      So I get this. You must be in the “it is better to give than receive” camp, rather than “give to receive” camp.

      You need to understand how to receive in order to really give to others, right?

      I totally agree that the language here must be very carefully thought through, and that it must be revealed and unfolded carefully to an audience at the right time.

    • I’m in the “sacrifice yourself” camp as compared to being on the “give-receive continuum”.

      I need to understand how others receive in order to sacrifice myself to *their* ascension.

      This needs a lot of context. It’s fragile and can shatter in an instant through misunderstanding, misinterpretation and misrepresentation.

      King-making is definitely not a popular vocation.

      I don’t believe that you are either a king or a king-maker – far from it.

      Best to you, my friend.

      Robin :)

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Robin

      Good points. I’m really understanding what you mean by he fragility of it all. I need to carefully construct my next blog posts on the subject.

      Of course, your “Share Words” post is the best digital example of King making that I’ve ever seen.


  2. Always thought it was important to ‘shine a light’ on others through your blog if you wanted to gain the full potential of what they can offer.

    • Scott Gould says:

      I agree Craig – so many blogs just link to their own stuff all the time. I’m continually trying to send people to those doing the best work in their areas.

      How do you think it’s best to do this?

    • I think simple things like blog round-ups, re-tweeting others, highlighting Flickr photos and linking to sources of stories all help.

      With more people turning blogs into books, and visa-versa, there are interview opportunities and competition giveaways.

      There is a lot of power in a simple link.

  3. Probably not enough of a king-maker yet – though I hugely value it when I get the opportunity to.

    For me, there is nothing better than setting up a connection between two people who it seems blindingly obvious should know each other – and watching that flourish over time.

    For me, it is about building up my own connections to a point where I am able to consistently provide value to others. That is about constantly challenging myself to do more.

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Kristian

      I certainly experienced some king-making from you this week. The trick with king making is that it is a process that needs to be facilitated – so it’s not just setting up the connection, but nurturing it over time.

      For instance, I’m behind your success. I read your blog back in October and Daren highly recommended you. Not only did I have you at Like Minds, but I actively share your stuff and recommend you to people as my preferred expert on Gen Y.

      It’s an ongoing thing that just doesn’t stop. It’s what Robin Dickinson (who has commented above) says – you become sales agents for each other.

    • I think what I’ve valued with you most is that you’ve looked out for what I’ve been doing despite the false starts.

      I don’t know how many times I’ve started a blog for it not quite to get going – it frustrates me, even. You’ve nurtured the connection over time and always kept an eye out for what I’ve been up to.

      That’s why you – amongst others, will always be front of mind for me when I have opportunities which crop up.

      There’s definitely something in the concept of sales agents for each other that I’d like to share as well – blog post this evening perhaps.

  4. Scott,

    Posts like this are very liberating in that they give people permission to do what is right.

    Common thinking – even in relation to social media – is along the lines of “How can I leverage this to further my kingdom.”

    Yet, at least for me, thoughts like this (though I do think them) seem amiss. Even though I often think I should be building some kind of kingdom, is just doesn’t feel right.

    But even by you differentiating King or King-Maker I feel the freedom to stop striving to be what I’m not (king) and wholeheartedly pursue where I’m best (king-maker). This is where I’ve always had my greatest success and my greatest satisfaction. I’m guessing I’m not the only one reading for whom this is true. Would that we were all king-makers at heart.

    All of that to say, thanks for the reminder. I’m grateful for your thinking and your writing.

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Randy

      I’m tired of this whole “everyone needs a brand and products” and “build your brand and products” talk – the idea that everyone needs to be king of their own internet empire.

      Teams are what works. A group of king-makers.

      Besides, some people work best as the king, some as advisors, and so on. Some people are great number 1s, some are great number 2s – and guess what, they need each other!

      Great to keep talking Randy

    • “Besides, some people work best as the king, some as advisors, and so on.”

      This is so important to learn and understand. General thinking is that the ultimate goal is to be king of something. But if you’re not wired up to be a king, that can be a tough, lonely place to be. And if you’re not designed to be a king, yet are striving to be, you’re climbing the wrong ladder. Been there, done that.

      No question that the synergies teamwork produces yield the grandest results.

    • It’s a great topic. I’m glad you introduced it.

      Addressing it further has the potential to really help people. There is great freedom found when working within your giftings, employing them for the benefit of others.

      I’d say this is the business equivalent of picking up the basin and the towel. Yes?

    • Scott Gould says:

      It does take commitment.

      The people that I’m making kings – many are “above me” in terms of their levels of leadership, etc. It’s hard – there is stress, there is pressure, and TBH, you often learn character from the hard times that you go through together.

      This pressure, this “weight of glory” comes with the territory.

    • This is a good dichotomy, Generalist and Specialist, and very worthy of defining and discussing.

      Paul Graham speaks of Managers vs. Makers. This article was quite insightful and well worth a read before you write your post next week:

  5. Having worked with Kings I understand the complexity and dynamics that introduces into your own world.

    The most successful Kingmakers are those with a secure ego, and willing to do what it takes to keep them on the throne.

    I’m not suggesting one’s integrity should be compromised, but it does take a level of commitment that’s above and beyond the call of duty.

    Otherwise don’t call yourself a Kingmaker.

    • Catherine is on the money. It does take a high level of commitment with kings. If you genuinely like the person, believe in their vision and trust their character, it is far easier to advise and serve them.

      Others walk on the bleeding edge of integrity. Working with/for them can get dicey.

  6. karimacatherine says:


    You are a writing machine…Muhahha.
    OK, so let’s start, you definetely know how to get my attention, your titles are wicked.
    Kings versus king makers; it is funny how history is full of history showing that kings were often not the ones we thought would be on the throne. Work, talent, strategy, perseverance and sheer destiny play.
    You mention Twitter being full of wanna be kings – and queens, if I may add – and Twitter, as well as many other social platforms are a microcosm of real life where may be, all quality and defaults are exagerated. In any case, I see Kings, king makers and a whole bunch of titles such as dukes, and Courtisans. Social business is a human lab.
    In any case, Trey is a king-maker and a hugely generous person.

    You my friend, I see you as Robin Hood, Yes? (not sure if you will take it as a compliment but it is)

    • Scott Gould says:

      First of all, thank you Karima for your kind words :-)

      You know who I see as Robin Hood is Chris Brogan. When I spent a good three days with him I saw that he takes what he learns and what he charges Fortune 100 companies $$$$ for, he gives to his community for free. That’s certainly taking from the rich and giving to the poor!

  7. Rosa Garriga says:

    Again very interesting post Scott!
    I’d never heard before the title of king-maker, but I totally agree with what you say, that the ‘best kings were king-makers first’. I believe that the saying ‘Give and you shall receive’ says it all.
    Personally, I try to be a king-maker, I’ve found myself so many times connecting people and after that let them go…sometimes without me.
    I also agree with 2 comments made below:
    – self-confidence is very important when being a king-maker, otherwise you could even feel threatened of what others might achieve and fearful that you could be left out of the ‘pie’
    – commitment is key if you want to be a truly king-maker, and ultimately a respected person.

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Rosa

      Thanks for the comments. You’re right, give and you shall receive, is pretty much the centre of it. But also, it’s about the fact that it is more blessed to give than receive too.

      Self-confidence – you are *so* right – people become very scared of others being successful here. What I’ve learnt is that “your success is my success” and whatever others achieve who I am supporting, it’s a win for me. This is very much the case recently, when people who I have at Like MInds get a lot of attention and get comparatively little.

      What I’m realising is that I am more useful and influential as the king maker – so rather than trying to be the no.1 person, I’m going to be a better no.2

    • Rosa Garriga says:

      Thanks for your comments too!

      Actually, when you think about it, ‘give and you shall receive’ is quite a selfish approach, isn’t it? Its like you just do it for the benefits that you might get. It should be as you mention, that it feels better to help others just for the sake of it.

      About the self-confidence, your paragraph has reminded me a lot to the Stephen Covey’s ‘ The 7 habits of highly effective people’ book. The stage of interdependence, aiming for win-win situations, is the most beneficial one…but he emphasizes that first we have to let go of fears.

      Good luck in being no.2! (although it looks like you’re already doing very well :)

  8. Great post and perspective. I’ve always believed that when we lift others up, we lift ourselves up along the way.

  9. Dave Lutz says:

    Scott, great leadership post! Humility is definitely a trait that separates the pretty good from highly effective leaders that I’ve been exposed to in my life. I try hard to be a king maker. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some pretty incredible people that modeled the way!

    • Scott Gould says:

      Thanks Dave

      What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in your experience?


    • Dave Lutz says:

      Scott, I should have known you wouldn’t let me off with a general comment. Here’s a few specific learnings:

      – Give help without expectation of getting something in return. Don’t keep score.
      – Put your employees first. When you’re able to grow truly happy and motivated employees, King making is multiplied.
      – Put a high value on existing customers. No loyalty, no word of mouth/referrals.
      – Treat your suppliers like partners. If you can help make them successful, you’ll end up benefiting somewhere down the road.
      – Thought leadership matters a lot. Stakeholders like people/organizations that stretch their minds and help them improve.

      You need a complete package to deliver maximum results.

    • Scott Gould says:

      Yep – you know me!

      Very good pointers. What I’m picking up here is pretty much “put the person in front of you first” – which on level is very simple, but on another level, takes a lot of thought. This is why I like you point on thought-leadership. I spend a lot of time thinking through how best to serve people with Like Minds – literally, I spend hours imagining things from their shoes and then working back to see how I can provide the most help.

      Will continue to think this through!

  10. Annie Syed says:

    Hi Scott.

    Despite having you in my twitter vitamins I guess I missed the first time you posted this. (some days can’t take vitamins! lol). Just found the link via Robin Dickinson Rting it and stating he left a comment.

    I guess my foremost thought is as follows: I wish to SHAKE AND WAKE these kings and king-makers to show them their “clout” (is that a word? did I spell it right? oh well) beyond the glassed veil of cyberspace. But for a handful of people, most of these social media gurus (or those running a stream of income via blogging etc.) reach is ONLY in this realm. I want to shake them and say: NO ONE ON EARTH KNOWS YOU EXIST! I don’t mean to be harsh. I just want to point out at this delusional existence. I guess the retort is “Well, they are making money and helping those who are following in their footsteps.” But where is this going? Where is the vision? Conquer internet? I am not mean being. I am seriously asking because I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like it’s muggy air circulating in a law firm. Like you can see out the windows but can’t step outside so you create this alter-reality inside.

    I applaud, admire and spread the good word on Earth and Cyberspace when I learn that someone’s “spread-ability” (to borrow one of your great terms) on the internet is also equivalent to how far they reach out on Earth. Two examples come to mind right away: @chrisguillebeau @zenpeacekeeper Are there others, sure. But far and few between.

    Yet some earth and cyber “doers”/”helpers” are “linked” with people I do not smell as “authentic.” I can’t hold that against them. But I am not going to pretend I don’t notice.

    Moreover, I am discovering that the internet is really round and there is almost an incestuous circling of the same old people, again, and again, and again. Like really? How about you (not *you*) step out of your comfort zone and perhaps change the flow. I do see it happen here and there and it is refreshing. I see you in that line of creating a new momentum. And when I do, I am a religious zealot trying to “convert” others unto these humans. But for the most part it is disappointing.

    And you know what is most disappointing is this masquerading of “I can help you” which is really another way to sell your services, product, book, etc. Now, you may be saying, “Well, Annie, people have to make money. We can’t live in a free-for-all society.” I agree. But just keep it authentic. And if you “truly” have no desire to connect with another beyond the talk of the product (or “work”) then state that too. It’s okay.

    I guess my biggest realization is how rarely people tap into the humanity of one another. This doesn’t mean one has to spill all their personal stories. Not at all. But here we have a medium like the world wide web, shouldn’t it be beyond a reflection of how “business as usual” is happening on Earth? Or am I right that it is just a reflection of how we function on Earth?

    Much thanks for writing this.


    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Annie

      Thank you first of all for the excellent comment and giving us more insight into you.

      First of all, you’re right – when we talk about this online, a lot of all this ‘activity’ is seen by no one. For me, this post isn’t at all about the online world – it’s about people wherever they are.

      I’ve got some things to say about that later in the week, but you do point out a lot now:
      – like the echo-chamber – the say old people.
      – like the “help” everyone but it’s actually about me pushing my product
      – the idea that everyone should have a personal brand and blog, etc

      I’ve spoken to a few people the last couple of weeks, and some of what I heard them say scared me – stuff along these lines above.

      We need to get a skype call going!


  11. Jen Gresham says:

    I guess my only comment would be to remember that being a King-maker is not mutally exclusive with being a King. It’s okay to want to be a King. One needn’t deny one’s own ambition. However, it’s wise to know how the best people become Kings, and that’s by being an excellent King-maker. Some will get to King without that step, but I tend to think they’re pretty lonely, paranoid people.

    Clinton was ridiculed for the line, “It takes a village,” but it really does. We’ve really undervalued what villages can do.

    Thanks to Robin for pointing me to this thoughtful discussion…

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Jen

      Thank you for the comment (and thank you Robin for pointing)

      Jen I agree – being a king and king-maker are not mutually exclusive – which is why I say at the end that the best kings were king-makers first. For me, the emphasis is to be a king-maker first. A good king is always building up the kings around them – it’s the idea that the rising tide gathers all boats. In order to leave a lasting legacy and cause lasting change, we must raise up those who will go further than us.

      Can you explain a bit more about that Clinton quote? It’s late and I’m not quite getting it!

      Thanks again Jen – look forward to talking more with you.


  12. JeffHurt says:


    Interesting post and I have to admit it caused me to pause and reflect. That’s a good thing.

    Here’s my challenge, and I know it was not your intent, it’s my challenge: Am I the only one that struggled with the words king and king-maker? That word has so many negative contations for me that I got stuck on it.

    For me, the word king implies a monarchy and not a democracy. Kings are made by hereditary and born of blood, not usually by open vote of all. Some are appointed by elite groups. Kings are sole, absolute rulers, autocrats. Some kings claim to rule by deity, their own gods. The word king also felt sexist to me. So, I’ve struggled with wrapping my arms around this analogy. It just brought up some negative emotions. Maybe it’s because I’m a citizen of the U.S. and don’t see through a European view.

    I tried to find a similar analogy that worked for me. I’m still thinking about that.

    I don’t want to be a king-maker or a king. I want to be a community builder and founder. I want to be a resource to others, to offer all that I have so others can get ahead. I want everyone to have a voice and that all voices, regardless how diverse or opinionated, to matter and be equal. I want to be a conduit, a connector, a relationship builder that offers open hands, open hearts and open minds.

    I don’t think that’s a king or king-maker. At least, that’s how I see it.

    PS…thank you for taking me out of my comfort zone to struggle with this…seriously, trying on new perspectives is a good thing!

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Jeff

      Thank you first of all for being open and honest. That’s community and trust and I appreciate it.

      I took the words from a sermon about Samuel, Saul and David. Samuel was the king-maker, but Saul and David were the Kings. It was a sermon illustrating how there are those who are the point people in public, and those in private.

      Perhaps, yes, the analogy is outdated. But even by you saying that you are a community builder and founder says to me you are a king-maker. You are more interested in building others, than drawing others.

      Now someone like Mike Arrington – he is a king. He draws people to himself. There’s the difference.

      The analogy – yes, it’s outdated. But in this case, it’s good because it forces new perspective like you say.

      What would you say to that?


    • JeffHurt says:

      Ok, now I get it. Now that I see how you put that within context of a Biblical story of Samuel, Saul & David, I get it. That’s the challenge sometimes with ancient texts as the context can seem foreign to us or even outdated.

      Now, having said that, I would prefer to be seen as Queen Esther–one who stands in the gap for others. ;) I just couldn’t resist that.

  13. Bundu Bandit says:

    So glad I stumbled here. I think being a King Maker is about “Mind over Matter Over Material”
    You get your mind round what really matters- ie expanding your personal kingdom vs.. enhancing someone elses and becoming more valuable and influnetial or respected for being above and beyond Material gains.

    • Scott Gould says:

      Hey Bundu! Glad to have you here and glad you’ve got some value from this. You’re right on target with the mind over matter over material

  14. Karyn says:

    I think the greatest level of satisfaction can be found when you actively work to lift someone up, and your efforts are rewarded by their success. I don’t seek success personally, I tend to find it after I have helped someone else achieve theirs. I like it that way.

    • Scott Gould says:

      hi Karyn, lovely to meet you. Thank you for popping along. I agree. I think Zig Ziglar said something similar about meeting the needs of others will meet your needs in the end.

  15. Isaiah Kingsley Obiefuna says:

    I was called a Kingmaker Dec 9 2017, and since I got thinking what this really mean
    This curiosity led me to this blog. I have an idea now. Thanks.

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