World's Simplest Leadership Model

In October 2008 I became a published author. This had been my dream since I was 10 or 11 years old. I couldn't imagine I'd be writing about leadership. I planned to write The Peacock Who Was A Pilot.

My first book was published by CPP, Inc. It's titled Introduction to Type and Leadership. What my publisher really likes about this book is that it gives practical help to leaders who know their MBTI(r)-type (also called Jungian personality type) - they can use it to become better leaders, building on what they know about their personality type. It also helps folks in executive development, learning and development, and organization consulting who work with leaders. I am glad of this, and feel honored that so many gifted leaders and consultants find it helpful. [Second edition, with updated data, has recently been published by CPP.]

But what I love about this book is it's the first place I've written about the World's Simplest Leadership Model. I work with leaders to become a bit more effective every single day. This model nails that for many of my clients, and it may help you, too. Here it is, in a nutshell:

Leaders must do three things. If you make progress on any one of these things each day, you are doing fine. If you want to excel, make progress on all three.

1. Leaders set direction. No one will follow if they don't know where you are going. Does it have to be "visionary?" Maybe. But it can also be a practical statement of a target - "we are taking that hill over there." The thing is that in the midst of heading somewhere, people lose sight of the target. Many things can blur their vision, from disagreement, to confusion, to ego, to being tired or stressed, or just getting lost in the day-to-day tasks. The effective leader must wave that flag, shine that light, whatever it takes to remind their people. How can you refocus your group on where you are heading?

2. Leaders engage others. Engaging people means getting them connected to the work at hand, inspired to bring their best forward, personally invested in joining with others to accomplish something significant. When people are engaged and working together, there's a good chance of succeeding. When they're just going through the motions, you're fighting an uphill battle. To win, each leader must understand what motivates others, and must really value the many differences between people. How can you unleash more of the magnificence in your team?

Sportsmen in France build human pyramid, 1913. Vintage property of ullstein bild (Photo by M. Rol/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

3. Leaders enable people to execute brilliantly. This is the most muddling of the three tasks, because all the parts are interconnected. You need the right people in the right jobs at the right locations with the right resources working toward the right strategy using the right processes and working together for maximum effectiveness. That is a serious mouthful! But there are MANY levers a leader can use. What's critical is to both understand how work is getting done, and to regularly step back to look for more elegant solutions. Where are the hidden barriers to brilliant execution for your team?

This model is simple, but it's not simplistic. The complexity embedded within each piece means a leader can spend their life perfecting this art. It's oddly compelling. One executive told me that's because it's easy for him to remember and talk about, but not so easy to do.

If you put this into practice, would you let me know how it's helping you reshape your own leadership?

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