Are We Leaders or Just Delivery People?


I have worked with many people in management roles who use the phrase “I told them” when describing their interactions with their team.  Some managers believe that as long as they tell their people what to do or how to act they have fulfilled their obligation as a leader. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Leaders are not just responsible for delivering a message, they are also accountable for the results that the message causes, or doesn’t.

Leaders who look to take their influence to the next level struggle with this shift as much as any other.  We often believe that simply delivering a different message is the way to create change.  The reality is that c

One of the harshest truths about leadership is that while we judge ourselves by our intentions, everyone else judges us by our actions.  We always know what we meant and why we do the things we do.  Others take their cues from how we operate as they are not privy to that inside information. They make their own decisions about our motives, our character and our ability to lead based soley on our actions.

It may feel liberating to take the approach that this is just who we are and how we operate and we are not going to change that for the benefit of others.  We simply have to understand that if we take that path, we cannot lead.  When we make that choice, we lose all power to influence others, change our environment, cause different outcomes in our world or make things better for ourselves or those around us. Every time someone chooses to think they should not change who they are or how they act for anyone or anything, we lose a leader.

Choosing to stay who we are today is a choice not to develop, learn, increase our influence or build stronger relationships.  None of those things can occur if we do not continuously look for ways to become better at how we interact with others and take responsibility for how they interpret our messages and actions.  It doesn’t mean that we will completely eliminate misinterpretation.  It does mean that our responsibility as a leader is to align our actions with our words and create clarity about what we believe.

That is not to say that we should abandon our principles. Too many of us use this as a crutch or an excuse to refuse to change.  There is a big difference between compromising our integrity and shifting our behaviors to allow a team to be more effective, a business to move in a different direction, or a relationship to transition to a better place.  Great leaders constantly ask themselves the question, “who do I need to become to help others make changes that will lead to better results.”

Change is how leaders progress and become more effective.  Changing our behaviors is how we cause different results around us.  Altering our words or “telling” others something different will never matter unless it’s accompanied by a shift in what we do. Charting a new course for others, but sticking comfortably with our old one, simply erodes our credibility.  As leaders our job is often to initiate change, and to do that, we ourselves have to embrace it.

Leading Through Influence

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