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Leadership compass you can NOT live without
March 01, 2016

Do you know the answer to this question?

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of leaders – that I meet – that cannot answer me this question in no uncertain terms (their facial expression goes blank when I ask them this question):

“What does a leader do – in a few words?”

They give me all sorts of answers – some of them warmer than others. But for the most part – their answers are vague, mushy and ill defined.

In the realm of leadership – as in any other area for that matter – there are certain fundamental truths, principles and guidelines that are worth repeating (and this one is one of them).

If you are a leader – no matter what your organizational rank – you MUST posses a precise, practical and useful definition of leadership.

A results-oriented definition of leadership helps you guide your behaviors – as a compass does – making you much more efficient and effective.

So – for the benefit of my readership (that’s you) – I am going to tell you in “three words” (so to speak of course) what you – as the leader – must always do.

First: As the leader – you establish the direction of the team you lead.

By direction I mean both the Vision and the Strategy to achieve it.

Is your Vision truly DESIRABLE (read “sexy”) and easily COMMUNICABLE to all stakeholders involved?

Your answer to this question must be a unequivocal “YES”

Second: As the leader – you align your people.

To align your people, you must clearly communicate the direction to them – and you must use ALL possible forums, formats and mediums.

AND your communication must be ongoing: You repeat it, repeat it, and repeat it …

If you are not sick of listening to yourself repeating it and repeating it – it simply means that you have not repeated it enough yet.

The direction must be crystal-clear to all your stakeholders involved.

Third: As the leader – you inspire your people to achieve the Vision.

How do you inspire your people to achieve your Vision?

Simple …

You inspire people by satisfying basic human needs – especially if such needs are unfulfilled.

If your Vision promises to take advantage of an opportunity and/or it promises to avoid a crisis – then your Vision is very likely satisfying a human need (this is called the “Business Case for Change” by the way).

You inspire your people to achieve the Vision by making sure they clearly understand such business case for change.

However: If your Vision does NOT have a business case for change – then – let me ask you this:

Is your Vision worth it? Is it?

Probably it isn’t. In which case you better craft a different Vision.


Voilà – this is it.

This is – in a nutshell – what a leader does.

Now – let me ask you another VERY important question:

IF this is what an effective leader does – what then is the essence of leadership?

Think about it:

The answer to this question is also a fundamental truth, principle and guideline that is worth repeating and repeating until it gets written on your forehead forever.

What is the essence of leadership?

The essence of leadership is “change”

Can you think of an effective leader – either past or present – that was/is happy with the status quo?

Of course not!

Effective leaders drive change – always.

Such is the essence of leadership.

If you are not driving change – as the leader – what are you doing then?

If you are not driving change – you might be a manager – but definitely not the leader.

Think about it.


If you consider yourself a leader …

You always have a direction.

You align your people according to such direction.

And you inspire them to achieve such Vision.

Remember – if you are the leader – even if you are the leader of a one-person team – you are the driving force for change.


PS: Among all the different descriptions of leadership that I have seen – this one depicted here above is the most clear, practical and results-oriented description that I have ever come across (by John P. Kotter in “Leading Change,” Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. 1996).

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See you next month!
Joseluis Romero - Publisher
March 1, 2016. Copyright: All rights reserved
I publish "Leader Newsletter" on the first Tuesday of every month
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