Leaders     “Managers do things right, leaders do the right things” Warren G Bennis

This has to be one of my favourite quotes. I first heard Stephen Covey say this a number of years ago and it has always stuck with me since.

But what are the right things?

How does a great leader always know what to do?

So how do Great Leaders do the right things? In short, they don’t, they don’t always get it right, however over time they develop a strategy for mitigating risk through the simple process of tweak and improve. They don’t procrastinate, they make decisions based on calculated risk so the business can always move forward. And more importantly, they know when to pivot to ensure when they are not on the right path, they are not afraid to change direction.

Now while that is all very well and good and in short, quite pie in the sky, great leaders know how to do this instinctively and it’s not something (from my experience) that you can learn from a text book. This is nurtured over long periods through continuous learning and development.

And then.. it’s not just good enough to know these things, more importantly you need to be able to motivate your team to follow your leadership without ‘backbenchers’ diluting and often poisoning your message.

So it’s

1. Knowing what to do

2. Bringing your team with you

Does that sound simple?

 In this day and age, corporations have stringent Training & Development programs in place and along with that you will see many courses and workshops on Leadership Training. In fact, with these highly controlled workshops in place, wouldn’t you think that the future of businesses are in safe hands? That they are developing and nurturing the future managers and leaders of the business?

During one of my workshops I was facilitating recently on Communication, I actually had the pleasure in getting a lesson or 2 in Leadership Skills.

I went to dinner with the CEO of the business, one of the most progressive leaders I have had the pleasure in meeting in recent times. His background is quite similar to mine, a background based on developing and growing cultures of continuous improvement. In fact he divided Leadership into 3 areas

  1. Continually improving yourself
  2. Continually improving your business and future business
  3. Continually improving your team

If you are not doing that, you are not doing what needs to be done

I was then asked the question I posed above

‘Wouldn’t you think with all the Leadership Development Programs in Corporations these days that these businesses would be in safe hands for the future?


Studies in the USA of over 4000 Companies who have Leadership Development programs in place show that 58% of these companies sited significant talent gaps for critical leadership roles!

Lets break this down

That is to say more than half the companies failed to grow Great Leaders!

Isn’t this a frightening statistic, considering the amount of training, resources and money that is being pumped into this area? Effectively this is demonstrating that the gap between leadership development and actual business requirement is widening.

He went on to say that the Leaders of today have no choice but be very different than the Leaders of yesterday and in fact must forget everything what has got them to where they are today, move forward by continually learning, and by moving forward through continuous improvement.

As you can imagine I was hooked, a Leader that talked about continuous improvement as the back bone of his principles.

I delved deeper into what he meant by this.

  • How does a Great Leader continually improve?
  • How does a Great Leader know what the markets are going to throw at them next?
  • When does a Great Leader know when they should evolve their strategy?

 In a nutshell he boiled it down to what questions a Great Leader in this day and age need to constantly ask themselves on a regular basis.

1.       Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model?

Who are you spending time with and what topics? Where are you traveling and what are you reading? So you can learn and understand what is going to change and how you are going to do something about it now, not tomorrow.

Great Leaders should be able to see around corners shaping the future and not reacting to it!

Strategy is only a guiding path that may twist and turn, it’s not something that is a rigid straight line that should be followed to the death!

2.       What is the diversity measure of your stakeholder network?

How can you develop relationships with people and colleagues that are very different from you and also in different market segments. That is people outside your existing and comforting network. By different, that could be a whole barrage of things, biological, physical, functional, cultural or socioeconomic. In this day and age, many corporations are akin to a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, where people have many different needs and requirements. And through all these differences, your piers or team connect with you enough to trust you and operate with you in achieving a shared goal.

Great leaders understand that having a diverse network is a source of pattern identification at great levels and also a source of solutions as you have people that are thinking differently!

Great Leaders need to get out of their comfort zone and live in the stretch zone!

3.       Are you courageous enough to abandon the PAST as in a practice that has made you successful in the past?

They are not concerned with being comfortable and holding on to what has got them to where they are today. They don’t just talk about risk taking, they actually do it. Some of the most impactful learning comes when you are able to build the emotional stamina when people are telling that your new idea is naïve, reckless or just plain stupid. And mostly the people who are willing to listen to you are not the traditional people surrounding you.. it’s the early adopters that think differently that will support you in taking a courageous leap. Great Leaders need to be comfortable with walking alone and being told they are reckless.

Great Leaders dare to be different!

 So let me ask that question again, does it sound simple now?

Developing Great Leaders in todays world requires a whole new thinking, that exists outside of the training room.

And all I can say is that I am looking forward to my next dinner with this CEO!