The Thrive! Blog...

April 18, 2011Just Lead Dammit!

One of the fundamental challenges facing many, if not most, organizations today is that leaders don’t lead.  They may guide.  They may supervise.  They may organize.  They may keep people within specific boundaries or to work within prescribed rules, policies and procedures.

But, they don’t lead!

And, this challenge is compounded by the host of “Leadership Training” programs inside organizations and available on the open market that don’t actually teach anyone to lead.  They may teach people to set goals, or manage performance or communicate more effectively.  Together, they might provide some of the core skill sets that are necessary for people to lead most effectively, yet they don’t actually teach people to lead.

So, what’s it take to Just Lead?  (Hint:  It’s not about the job title!)

Over the last 25 years, we’ve found 5 key elements that distinguish true leadership from supervision or management (as effective as those might be):


Leaders, as John Wayne said, “Get the herd moving roughly West.”

Leaders engage people in accomplishing outcomes that none of those folks could accomplish on their own.  The leaders job in this is to

define what “roughly West” looks like and make getting there compelling enough that people want to contribute their best to the journey every day.


Leaders Define the Gap

To get the herd moving roughly West, leaders define the gap between where the organization/group is and where it needs to be to be successful.

Leaders must take off the rose-colored glasses and see the world, not how they think it should be, but how it really is.  And, there is ALWAYS a gap between where the organization is, and where it needs to be to succeed and sustain success.  And, they must be able to effectively communicate this gap to the rest of the organization.

Leaders must engage the organization in defining a picture of the future state that is different than where the organization is today.  Whether the timeframe is a week, a month, a year or 5 years from now, everyone needs to share a vision of what the future state looks like, and why it’s necessary to get there.  And, of course, they have to be nimble enough to quickly change direction as the economy, or customers, or competition, or technology change where they need to get to.