Are You Really Leading?


So what is leadership and are you really leading? A big question!

Here is one way of looking at leadership, drawn from the work of Meg Wheatley, John Kotter, and Edgar Schein, all gurus in the world of organisations, leadership and culture. We can consider 2 realms in organisations:


The realm of Structure, Process, Systems

organisational charts, manuals, delegations, budgets, policies and procedures


Concerning management and tasks

The realm of Relationships, Identity, Information

Hearts and minds, beliefs, values, culture, engagement, empowerment


Concerning leadership and people


A model like this shows that the work of leadership is really the work of engaging with people in a relational way - building connections, having great communication skills, inspiring, others, sharing dreams, engendering trust. 

The thing is we know our jobs have BOTH leadership and management elements. 

 What I have learnt from my own experience in a senior role and when coaching other executives, is that it is the ALIGNMENT of both of these elements that creates the greatest challenges and the greatest reward.  One of the main tasks of a leader manager is a metaprocess (a process which sits above the 2 realms) which is about aligning the realm of management and leadership. 

With this alignment comes exponential synergies:

·         When people “walk the talk”

·         When the espoused values and enacted values are the same

·         When systems are aligned to support the culture


Most of us are more familiar with the anti-model. That is, an espoused organisational value that says  “we value creativity” and then every possible system and procedure to stifle it.

So how do you know if you are leading? Leaders are engaging with people and “doing alignment” – your organisation or team will be buzzing with purpose, singing from the same songsheet, and full of energy.

Now – the next question – how do I get to do that when I am so bogged down in detail all the time? I call it getting sucked in to the "VORTEX OF MINUTIA".

Tool 1 to get out of the vortex:

Firstly, lets look at your level of focus. In order to help keep your focus as high as possible, you need to be keeping your vision and goals at the forefront of your mind. When you are in the midst of the minutia, keep asking this one question – it is the question that will change your life:


For what purpose?


Some of you have been asking “why I am doing this?” That sounds like a good question too, except that sometimes it simply invites rationale and reasons to keep justifying what you are doing. You may need to change your “why” question to “For what purpose?” so you can keep “chunking up”.  This question helps find alignment and challenges all the minutia that takes you off task:

-         Is it necessary?

-         What would happen if you stopped doing it?

-         Is it a legacy from a previous vision/goal?

-         Are we missing something in our vision/goal?

-         Or, now I can see the link to our vision/goal it doesn’t feel like a vortex anymore!


Remember, if you live to 80 years old you have approx 30 000 days in your life  – about 10 000 of those are work days – get your focus on making those 10 000 days count – get them productive, focused and minimise the crap.

Tool 2 to get out of the Vortex :

 Now let's take a look at all the meetings you attend. Are they necessary? Do you get the outcomes you really need? Here are some suggestions for your agenda.

  1. First item on your agenda: In what way does the topic of this meeting contribute to our vision/goal?
  2. Get on and have the meeting
  3. Last item on the agenda:  How does this discussion/decision/meeting output further/progress our vision/goal?

This new meeting agenda takes some discipline. The great things is that it will make you and your team think about whether they need meetings about certain topics at all!!

You may need a coach to help you on track during the meeting. In one organisation, we used a coach for 12 months at every senior management team meeting – to keep pulling back to that topic, to keep in mind the strategic impact of the decisions, to keep the alignment.  It made a huge difference to the focus and feel of the sessions – more powerful, more productive and more effective.

So, once you can get yourself out of the vortex, it’s time to get your focus right on alignment. And you need interpersonal energy to do that.

Many of you and those in leadership positions are high achievers.  You operate from a  Performance Frame. This gives you drive, energy and facilitates abundant effort – so it’s a good thing - until its not.

When it’s not, it becomes the boss no one can live up to. It creates stress and worklife balance issues.

This is how the dysfunctional performance frame looks and how it plays out:

  • Doing a lot of “Shoulding” over yourselves
  • Putting excess demands on working hours etc and allowing others to do the same
  • Self-questioning your own competence
  • Feeling disappointed with yourself, even though you have done your best
  • Superhero syndrome – trying to be all things to all people
  • Worse still, taking that out on others, especially loved ones

Does this sound familiar in you or a loved one?

Well you could do years of therapy and perhaps we will find a demanding parent or unresolved abandonment issue but that doesn’t matter. Somewhere along the line you made a limiting decision that you are not good enough – and sometimes no amount of rational feedback will convince you otherwise.

Most likely, all of this was shaped before you were 7 years old.  Do you really want your life to be ruled by the beliefs and perspective of a 7-year-old child??

You need to look after yourself. Forgiving yourself and being more gentle with yourself can help. Stephen Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective people calls is “Sharpening the Saw”. You can’t cut anything with a blunt saw. Take “you” time.

Remember the work of leadership is the realm of relationships, communication, and engagement – that means you need to project your vision, optimism, warmth, empathy – that’s hard to do when you are exhausted.


Repeat this creed – one hand up in the air and one on your heart:

  • I do solemly declare
  • I am gorgeous, handsome, smart, and fabulous
  • I am perfect just the way I am
  • I step in to my own power
  • And I am “hot stuff baby”

Because you are.

So, are you really leading?  If you get your focus right, if look after yourself, and work on the task of engaging with people and alignment with your management task, you are on the right road.