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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Observer or Leader?


I go to a lot of meeting about leadership and similar topics and sometimes I get a flashback to the high school dance – where a few folks are dancing while others are looking on trying figure things out (and even practicing some moves) so they can join in. Leaning against the back wall are the cool kids – they claim to know the latest dances but just talk about it rather than actually hit the floor.

The dance image is a pretty good analogy for people in the practice of leadership – the Doers, the Pupils, and the Observers.

The Doers are engaged in actively executing the role – learning from the experience.

The Pupils are soaking in everything they can to master the tools of leadership – learning from others' experience.

The Observers are watching and reporting on leadership activities – recounting what others have learned and experienced.

Leadership requires doing, learning, and working on how to do it better. It is a continuous process because leadership is not a formula, it's not a set procedure, it's not a few rules printed on a flash card – successful leadership is dynamic and is adaptable to changing circumstances. It strives for results and points everyone toward the same direction to achieve them.

I once had a boss who refused to listen to a problem brought to him unless a solution was also offered. He gave me a valuable lesson in leadership – be a doer, be a thinker, and be engaged. This approach encouraged innovation and got rapid results.

An innovative approach to an issue requires more than simply creating new-speak by redefining key terms, or imposing a raft of new rules – often this creates churn but not movement, and can delay real doing. Observers can be guilty of offering such solutions in their quest toward how things should be, which supports their reporting about leadership.

Which approach – Doer or Observer – fosters results and movement toward the stated mission – the hallmarks of a leader? So, by extension, does it come down to a choice between being a Leader or being an Observer?

How do you feel about this distinction?


SalesLab’s Rainmaker series returns to the Capital Technology Management Hub, Tuesday, September 13th with 300 seconds of Mark Your Territory. The featured CTMH speaker will be Professor Steve Gladis, author of The Agile Leader. Come join us!



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