Leadership Isn’t Raised on Promises

I’ve had a lot of conversations with c-suite leaders recently who are concerned they do not have their next generation of leaders on their team. Let’s be clear, they have people on their team, but they do not believe those people are the future or at least they don’t believe they’re anywhere near becoming the future.

The folks in position are all well-meaning enough. I mean they want to be leaders and many believe they probably are leaders. They make all the leadership promises. That’s probably the first indication they aren’t ready. This is what their c-suite is feeling and hearing.

You see, leadership isn’t raised on promises…Leadership is raised on execution and outcomes.

Give me someone who can execute and I believe I can teach them to lead. Too often I think we look for leaders in the way we look for friends. Is this a person I and others would want to hang out with? Is this a person I can trust? Is this person nice? Do I get along with this person, and do others get along with this person? Would I follow this person?

I don’t need my leaders to be my friend. I need my leaders to get sh*t done. Can you get sh*t done without pissing off every single person around you, becomes a key element, right? There’s a balance. Sometimes I think we’ve gone too far on one side of that balance, and it’s not the execution side!

So, you want to be a leader?

Great, awesome, wow! Get sh*t done! The recipe is pretty clear and most fail:

  1. Clearly communicate what needs to get done.
  2. Find out why that will happen or won’t happen. Fix that stuff.
  3. Gain agreement of when and how this stuff will get done.
  4. Help move roadblocks and excuses out of the way.
  5. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.
  6. Accountability.
  7. Stuff got done.

In my experience the best leaders never made promises, they just got stuff done. The promise leaders tended to go away at some point. Turns out most organizations don’t need promises, they need stuff to get done.



3 thoughts on “Leadership Isn’t Raised on Promises

  1. I’d add…the best leaders are the ones who get things done without much fanfare and drama. Sometimes folks think that the person firefighting is a leader, but how did the fire start in the first place? Leading is a lot like parenting. Tell them what they need to do and call their bluff if they don’t and celebrate when they do.

  2. Also, looking for the leaders that “you want to hang out with” can also create a group that thinks too much alike. That can be crippling to a company in the long term as it can leave them incapable of adapting and thinking of new ways of doing things.

  3. Want to see who the leaders (and future leaders) are in your team? Open your ears and listen. The ones saying “I can be a great leader, just tell me what to lead and I’ll do it” aren’t the ones you want to bet on.

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