What Do Leaders Do

Mike Weber

Have you noticed? We tend to complicate things. Thousands of books listing countless rules of leadership line bookstore shelves. It would take a lifetime to read and follow the advice of all the “experts”. It’s a daunting proposition to wrap one’s head around it all and then apply it on a daily basis.

I like to keep things simple.

The challenge in leadership development is not skill-development as much as positional definition. Who is a leader and what do they do? Management and leadership are often seen as synonymous. Efficiency is confused with effectiveness. Long-term success is short-changed by concern for the bottom line.

What then is the job of a leader?

Leaders are charged, not with just bringing the ship into port, but making sure that they are in the right port. Specific actions and responsibilities can be argued, but ultimately leaders are judged by their results. Their job, in the simplest terms, is three-fold:

Provide Vision

This is a directional function. Where are we going? What is our purpose? What values do we espouse through our words and actions? All great leaders are purpose-driven and that purpose is bigger than themselves. They understand that success is not about them, but about the team. They know where their organization is headed and they share that information regularly with their co-workers. They are constantly looking at the map and compass to confirm they are sailing in the right direction.

Be a Master of Influence

This is a motivational function. Not only do they provide the vision, but then they work to move the team in that direction. They influence through their words, their actions and the relationships that they build. They are responsible for the “atmosphere” of an organization. Work habits are set by example. Loyalty is built through relationships. The vision is constantly being communicated in deed and word. They are on the bridge in good times, as well as during the storms.

Develop the Structure for Success

This is a planning function. Leaders develop the organizational structure, systems and strategies to empower individual workers to succeed and make that vision a reality. As a result, everyone clearly knows what they must do and how it affects the success of the organization. The question leaders ask the people in their organization is “How can I help you do your job faster and better so that we can get where we want to go?”

Leadership doesn't sound all that complicated, does it? But, just because it's simple, doesn't mean it's easy. Learning to be an effective leader is a life-long adventure of acting on the answers to these three questions: Where are we going? Who will go with us? How will we get there?

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