In Change, Leaders

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” – Abraham Lincoln

Virtually every organization in the world has a leader, at least in theory. Somebody is the President, or the Chairwoman, or the CEO, or whatever. That person is officially designated as the leader. Unfortunately, just because you have the title doesn’t mean you’re leading, and there are a lot of people in the world who are leaders in title but not in fact.

Leaders are proactive. They don’t wait for some potential bad (or good) thing to happen, and then try to throw together a response. They evaluate what is coming, figure out the best way the deal with it, and then implement whatever that best way is.

Leaders respond when fires start. As much as good leaders might want to think strictly about the future and strategy, issues to come up that require immediate attention. Leaders deal with those things when they need to be dealt with. They don’t put it off because it’s unpleasant, or because it’s difficult, or whatever other excuse you can come up with. They take a deep breath and jump in because they know the health of the organization depends on it.

Leaders understand that “real work” is only part of their job, and maybe not even a very big part. Too many people with leadership titles wish people would leave them alone and that they wouldn’t have meetings or need to think about strategy. They want to hole up in their office and do whatever it is they used to do 10 years ago before they were in a leadership role. Real leaders get the fact that if you’re a leader, all those soft-skill-type-things are just as important, of not more so, than anything else they do. They don’t look at people issues as something to hurry up and get over with (or ignore) so they can do “real work”; they see it as the most important thing they do.

What kind of leader are you? You maybe have a title that makes it sound like you provide leadership for your organization. Do you actually provide it? Or are you collecting the check the leader gets without doing any of the actual leading? You can’t hide from it forever. Eventually you have to do the job. Start today.

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  • Dr. Chris Mason

    Good article. I think many leaders are confused about their role and they have no-one to guide them in how to be a better leader. They then default to “doing” as it makes them feel like they are making a contribution. The problem with this approach is little to no leverage and a “me too” outcome for the business.

    • Matt Heemstra

      Thanks Chris. I absolutely agree – there are a lot of people who get promoted for doing great work, but they get promoted to a role they don’t understand and have nobody to guide them. So they just do stuff without really accomplishing anything.

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