What is a leaders chief responsibility?
• A leader’s chief responsibility is to rally people to a better
Rallying people requires that leaders have innate optimism.
Great leaders are not unrealistic; in fact they are grounded in
reality. However, they are spurred on by a core belief that things
can be better in the future than they are today. They are able to
create a vision of this future and rally others to support it. In
addition, great leaders have egos in that they believe they are the
ones to make this better future come true. (Ego gets bad press.
Ego does not mean arrogance; it is self-assurance and self-
confidence.) Importantly, great leaders channel their egos not to
benefit themselves but to build their enterprise.
• The one thing you need to know about great leaders: they
find what is universal and capitalise on it.
While great managers find what is unique and leverage it, great
leaders find what is shared. The most relevant characteristic that
is shared by all people is a fear of an unknown future. (This fear
has led people to rituals and gurus to help deal with it.) Leaders
deal in the unknown. They have to turn legitimate anxiety into
confidence. The most effective way to do this is through clarity.
“Clarity is the answer to anxiety. Effective
leaders are clear.”
– Marcus Buckingham
Specifically, followers are begging for, and great leaders provide,
clear answers to the following four key questions:
1. Who do we serve? Great leaders focus their followers on
serving one specific core group. By serving this core group,
the organisation can better serve other groups as well. For
example, an executive from Wal-Mart once told an
audience that Wal-Mart serves those who live from paycheck
to paycheck; others are invited to shop at Wal-Mart and may
be satisfied in doing so, but Wal-Mart is focused on serving
those who are struggling to get by.
2. What is our core strength? Followers want to know what the
advantages are and why the team will win. They want one
clear and specific reason, and not something vague such as
“our culture” or “our people.” People want to know exactly
what about their culture or people will enable success. At
Best Buy the CEO has stated that the strength of the
company and the reason that Best Buy will succeed is the
ability of the front-line employees to answer questions and
assist customers. This is what their staff focus on and their success
3. What is our core score? Employees need one key metric to
use in measuring progress. Deciding the one specific
measure to use in keeping score results in driving the actions
that are taken. For example, previously Britain’s jails focused
on the key metric of “number of escapees.” This score was
based on serving society and led to a focus on security. A new
director of the prison system believed that society would be
better off by focusing on serving the prisoners; he changed
the core score to track the rate of reentry post release. Another
example: when Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York
City he stated that reducing crime was the paramount goal.
It turned out that by achieving this goal tourism increased
and new businesses opened. But, this one clear goal provided
a way for everyone to keep score. Tools such as balanced
scorecards with multiple measures may be good analytical
tools used for management, but leaders need one, simple,
clear metric to rally the organization around.
4. What actions can we take today? Great leaders provide a
few very specific and unambiguous actions that can be taken
immediately. For example, Giuliani immediately moved to
get rid of graffiti on the subways, require cab drivers to wear
collared shirts, and rid street corners of kids with squeegees.
Most importantly, great leaders do not necessarily have the right
answers to these questions—in many cases there are no “right
answers.” But, they provide answers that are clear, specific, and
vivid. Their followers know exactly who they serve, how they will
win, how to keep score to know if they are winning, and what
they can go do today.
• Great leaders develop three important disciplines:
1. They muse. Great leaders build in time to think and reflect.
In particular, they reflect on what causes success, and they
think about excellence.
2. They pick their heroes with great care. When leaders give
awards and praise in front of others they send important
signals to the organization. Praising is a form of leadership,
but it needs to be used carefully. When they praise and select
individuals that will be viewed as heroes by others, great
leaders explain why these individuals were selected—who
they served, how they scored, and what actions they took. In
doing so, they embed these behaviors in the organization.
3. They practice their words, phrases, and stories. Great
leaders are able to communicate in ways that resonate with
others. This doesn’t happen by accident. They practice the
words that they use to help others see the better future that
they imagine. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a
Dream” speech is viewed by many as original, but it used
phrases and images that King had carefully honed over years
of practice. In practicing their words, great leaders don’t
worry about repetition.
Preparation Key Actions
What are the key areas for you to focus on this week?
What are the key actions that you need to take around these priorities?
What is the major barrier(s) to you achieving your objectives and how do we ruthlessly eliminate it/them?
Filter – The barrier(s)
Laser – How do we ruthlessly eliminate this barrier(s)?
Director of Coaching and Training