Leadership is About Motion and Emotion

Leadership is About Motion

streets in motionFundamental to leadership is this idea that you need to know where you’re going.  Where are you leading?  What is your destination? Where will you and your organization stand tomorrow where you aren’t standing today?  How will your future state be different than the current one?

Pick a destination, make a plan to get there, and put that plan in motion.  Because if you aren’t traveling in a direction that people can follow, you simply aren’t leading.  You’re standing still.

If you don’t know where you’re leading, people can’t follow.

Leadership is About Emotion

happy faceLeading people requires tapping into your emotions and the emotions of others.  A.k.a. the human side of things.  Yeah, emotions can be messy and hard to navigate, but if you don’t at least try, people will eventually leave you.  Consider questions like these:

Do the people you lead take joy in coming to work?  Are they proud of their accomplishments?  Do they have disdain for their coworkers?  Are they outraged at recent organization changes and are they anxious about their employment?  Do they respect and trust their leadership and are they devoted to you and the company?

Asking these questions, and many more, can help you enter a nice mutual space with your people.  The discussions that follow can help form bonds and create relationships that allow you to be a successful leader and your people to be even more successful humans.

If you can’t lead like a human, humans won’t follow.

[Images: jtbramblett.wordpress.com; adliterate.com]

You’re a Leader. Now What?

You’re a leader.

what-questionNow what? Let’s explore the answer to this simple question and discover the secret to your leadership success. First, take a moment and finish this sentence:

In my organization, my role is…

Did you describe your role using your title? If so, that’s okay, but I want you to try again. This time I want you to explain what you do in your position. No titles. Ready, go.

Time out. Did you have a hard time explaining your job with great clarity in just a few words? Why? I don’t blame you. It is hard, especially if you’re new to leadership or this role. But, how important is it to describe your role? It is my belief that in order to be successful in leadership you must fist have undeniable clarity about what you are supposed to be doing.

To help you in this task, let’s ask ourselves a few basic questions.

What am I leading?

Businessman-with-World-on-ShouldersTo start, let’s talk about “what” we do in leadership. More precisely, explore the question “what am I leading?” The answer to this question lies in understanding the purpose of your organization. Does your organization have a mission or a purpose statement? Something that defines why it exists?

If so, then clues to what YOU are leading can be found in this mission and purpose statement. If not, then start by writing one. Either way, once you have a mission statement in hand, your next step is to drill down a little further into your part of the organization.

What is your core purpose? Your function? Reason for existing? Why did someone create your position and why does it still exist? What should you be doing?

With these ideas in mind, I now invite you to take a moment and jot some thoughts down about your purpose as it relates to your organization. Let’s try describing your role again, but this time start a different way.

The reason my job exists is to…

Where am I leading?

destinationNow that you understand what you are leading, let’s focus on where you are leading. The answer to this question lies in understanding where you and your organization are going. Do you have a vision for your organization’s future? Something that is both long-term and short-term and different from the present?

Where you are leading speaks to a destination that is off in the distance. You can see it, but getting there requires labeling it, deciding that you want to get there, telling people about it, and putting a plan in motion to get there. Simply put, working to answer this question leads you to setting goals for you and others to rally around.

Defining the future state can be an easy activity if you let it. For just a moment, dream a little. Imagine yourself one year (or choose another time frame) from now. What will you be happy that you and your organization accomplished? Write that down and make that your goal. That’s where you’re leading.

Our organization is going to…

How am I leading?

With what and where locked down, let’s think about how. How will you lead yourself, your team, and your organization to your destination? The answer to this question is a threefold matter: style, execution, and skill.


With regard to style, this is about understanding who you are leading and making choices that are situation-ally conducive to those relationships. Choosing your style involves asking two questions:

  1. How do the individuals on my team like to be lead?
  2. What approaches are the best match for my natural tendencies?

Where the answers to these two questions intersect is the sweet spot where you and the people you lead can be mutually successful.


Turning to execution, you need a specific and tangible plan of action that puts you on a path to achieving your goals.Action Plan

  1. What will you do,
  2. Who will do it, and
  3. By when will they do it?

Answer those questions, write them down, and share them with your team.


Finally, what skills are necessary to get you from point A to B? The list of needed skills may vary and depend greatly on your specific situation. Let’s brainstorm a list of skills together. Follow these steps:

  1. Quickly write a list of skills that you think are important for your organization.  As many as you can think of.  Stop when you start slowing down.
  2. Which of these do YOU need to be good at, based on what you now know about what and where you’re leading?  Select the top five most critical.
  3. Look at your top five and ask yourself, how am I doing?  Your choices are “killin’ it,” “getting by,” and “uh oh.”

For those skills where you’re “killin’ it,” pat yourself on the back. Good for you and keep using those skills for the betterment of your organization. For those where you’re “getting by” take a closer look and ask yourself if you need some help from others.

For the “uh oh” items, go find a mentor who can help you get better. Make haste, because these may be skills that will get in the way of your success and your organization’s glory.

We will accomplish our goals by…

The Secret to Your Leadership Success

Now that you’ve gained clarity on what, where, and how you’re leading, we have two more important questions to ask. And those are “Can I lead” and “Will I lead?” and these are a matter of self-confidence in your abilities and making conscious choices to take action in your role.

When I find myself in a new leadership position I often fall into the natural trap of self-doubting, asking if I have what it takes. If I’m qualified. And if people will choose to follow me. The antidote for this kind of thinking is reminding ourselves of two important factors.social-business-leadership

  1. One: I know what, where, and how I’m leading.
  2. Two: People will not follow my lead if I don’t want them to.

Noodle on that a bit.

In conclusion, the secret to your leadership success lies in your ability to cleanly and without hesitation answer these three simple, fundamental, but important questions:

  1. What am I leading?
  2. Where am I leading?
  3. How am I leading?

Know what you’re leading, where you’re leading and how you’re leading. The answers will ground you and offer you, your team, and your organization much needed focus. You’re a leader. Now go lead!

Do you think there are more questions that we should be asking ourselves about our leadership roles?  Share those below.

[Images: smallbusinessgrowth.com, hillenterprises.com, surfacetosoul.org, riskmanagementmonitor.com, socialbusinessnews.com]

9 Reasons I Loved This Semester

Learning Leaders

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other” ~JFK

Lead and learn

A few months ago, forty-six students entered my classroom with the hopes of beginning, continuing, or reigniting their journeys to be successful leaders in life and in business.  

Well, actually… most of them were probably just hoping to get an A.  But, now that the semester is over, I can look back and confidently say they were truly seeking personal growth and development in addition to a good grade.

Here’s nine reasons why:

Quotable Quotables

This spontaneous thought shared by Kathleen came when discussing the difference between managers and leaders:

“Managers make me work. Leaders make me WANT to work.”

That says it all.

Great Debates

When asked to explore key questions about leadership, some passionate debates ensued:

  • Are white lies okay in business?
  • Is charisma an essential leadership trait?
  • And my favorite debate to watch -> Which is more effective? Fear-based or Love-Based Motivation?

Drawn to Leadership

Like many before us, at multiple points throughout the semester we considered the traits and characteristics that made leaders most effective.  At one point we tried to draw the “perfect leader.”  Of course, we failed.  As expected, we agreed there is no “perfect leader.”

Leading in the Dark


Students were assigned to teams and challenged to deliver creative presentations that highlighted an example of leadership in action, using one or more theories from our textbook.

Norman, Shelby, Brian, Maria, and Michelle demonstrated the technique called Appreciative Inquiry with a skit where they portrayed people offering their opinions about the ideas and inventions of various eras.

The best part?  Half of the skit was in the dark.

Animal Instincts

While discussing motivational theories, it was suggested by Nick that leading humans through positive reinforcement was much like the way we train dogs.

I simply couldn’t disagree.

Lollipop Moments

One of our more inspirational and memorable discussions came after we watched this TED Talks video of Drew Dudley on everyday leadership and lollipops.

Reciprocity At Its Finest

Probably my favorite topic to cover is Influence and Persuasion.  We discussed the various shortcuts and techniques that one can use to influence others in an ethical and positive way.  To add some humor to the discussion, Madisyn offered up this video from the comedy team, Key and Peele.

Be My Mentor

light-bulb-plant-resized-600Near the end of the semester, I invited four local leaders to visit our class to answer the students’ questions about what it is really like to be a leader.  Some highlights of the many golden nuggets of leadership offered by Melissa, Rad, Chuck, and Sean:

  • Chuck encouraged everyone to go home happy everyday and explained that it is easier and more important to get an idea out of someone than it is to put it in them.
  • Rad stressed the importance of knowing your values and then letting those values inform your decisions.
  • Melissa reminded us how difficult it can be to transition from peer to boss.  Then she told us its worth it.
  • Get a mentor.  Sean told the students to pick a mentor and ask them if they want the job.  The worst they could do is say “no.” Shortly after the panel discussion, Eric tried it and it worked.

Making The Difference

lead-learnFinally, I was excited to see so many of these students not only make the choice to become leaders in life and business, but decide that they could become leaders.

Many admitted that at one time they felt “leadership was a gift given to a chosen few,” to quote Paul, but throughout the semester they came to realize that everyone has what it takes.

I also watched students apply, successfully, what they had learned about leadership to real life situations, which resulted in them making an immediate and tangible difference for themselves and others.

That was the best part of all.

Thank you students for a great semester!

Related Articles From Leadership Nosh

How to Spot an Over-Delegator

The Over-Delegator

I recently observed a leader faced with complete turnover in his department.  He was blindsided with the reality that he was now responsible for handling many of the day-to-day tasks that his team had been responsible for.

His problem: he didn’t know the basics.

His explanation for not knowing their jobs was that he had been blessed with a well-trained, professional and strong team that knew what they were doing.  He had consciously chosen not to get in their way as to avoid the perception of micro-management and to allow his team the room to further grow in their jobs.  Instead, he used that time to attend to other strategic efforts.

The downside?  He was left holding the baton and didn’t know which way to run.

His intent was good.  In the past he had been accused of micromanaging.  From that experience he had learned the art of pulling back, pointing his people in the right direction and getting out of their way. To most that sounds like good leadership.  But his mistake this time was swinging too far the other direction.  Because of his choices, he experienced the negative effects of over-delegation.  In his own words, 

“I went too far. I should have known the basics and I didn’t.” 

If you consider yourself a good delegator, stop and ask yourself, “Do I over-delegate?”

Read more about both the benefits and the dark side of delegating on my Lead Change Group post, Are Good Delegators Just Lazy?

For more on delegation from around the web: