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What Does Leadership Look Like?


Whenever I get the opportunity I ask people to close their eyes and tell me what they see when I say the word “leadership” or “leader”. Almost everyone imagines a superhero type looking off into the distance with a bunch of people standing behind ready to follow.  Ironically, that is not at all what leadership actually looks like.  Leadership… is what took place before all of those people lined up to follow.

Communication is our only leadership tool…  We lead with words, voice, tone modulation and body language.  That’s it!  Leaders get people connected to an idea and excited about building something, or doing something. 

Leaders need to have vision, clarity and the ability to crisply and energetically communicate that vision.  Great leaders understand that communication isn’t just a leadership tool, it’s also a “followership tool”.

When a leader delivers instructions, receives acceptance and watches their followership march off on a mission, they won’t know if they succeeded as a leader until they measure the outcome. This is a lag measure.

Great leaders measure their “leadership effectiveness” in the moment, without having to wait for the outcome.  The most effective leadership is a two-way conversation.  The leader shares their vision and their follower communicates what they heard and how they feel about it.  In this exchange the leader has the opportunity to adjust until both the leader and the follower share the same vision. This is a lead measure...  The feedback you receive from the follower is predictive of the outcome.

So… when someone says “follow me”, they mean listen to me.  When someone says “I don’t understand”, they mean…  I’m not following you.

In summary, leadership looks a lot like a two-way conversation.