What is the work of a leader?

Look up on your shelf…the one where you keep the books on leadership.  On mine there are books on servant leadership, leadership of Abraham Lincoln, good and great leadership, Genghis Kahn’s styles of leadership, the arts of leadership, even Shakespeare’s books on leadership.  And, thereby hangs a tale. 

No doubt they all contain good thinking and guidance for a leader.  But if you are new to leadership and your boss hands you a book titled “The Leadership Lessons of the Founding Fathers,” and a couple days later you are leading a second shift production team – you might feel a little like the young man in Tacoma – “what do I DO?”

How about instead we  say to the new leader:  Okay, you have a big job in front of you and I have got your back 100%.  Here is what you will to DO in this leadership role.


Your team needs to know the finish line and where they are relative to it.


No sticks and carrots, you need to hold a very high standard and help your team understand the importance of the work they do such that it draws the very best from them.


How do you know if you are winning or losing? Leaders make certain their teams are on track to goals by tracking both progress and results.   Measures also guide learning so you can meet the needs of your customers.


Leaders keep their teams informed and well-connected throughout the organization. Information needs to flow smoothly, be accurate, and get to the right people.


Leaders set the team up for success – leaders make sure the resources the team needs to do its work are arranged and available in a way that makes the team most productive.


Keep the team focused on the right work; teams need clear instruction, regular guidance and help when they get stuck


You need to get the right people on the team and then you need to make certain they are becoming more able to contribute every day.


Leaders use standard processes to establish expectations, improve consistency and define a base from which to improve.

That’s a lot and being a leader is a big challenge.  But, after 25 years of reading, watching, and coaching this is what we have learned.  When you develop the knowledge and skills to DO these tasks then you will be a successful leader.

Photo credit: Dreamin On.

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