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Doing is as Important as Leading

“Managers who don't lead are quite discouraging, but leaders who don't manage don't know what's going on. It's a phony separation that people are making between the two.”

-Henry Mintzberg, leading management thinker, author and Canadian academic

It seems nearly impossible lately to have a day pass without being bombarded with books, articles, or online posts sharing the latest theory, perspective, great read or conference about leadership. In addition to those, we are subject to continual advertisements promoting the next in an unending lineup of leadership awards. Events that are often corporate and organizational affairs marketing their next best leaders and usually tied to recruitment or sales campaigns. And finally, my personal favourite, the ‘everyone is a leader’ and ‘unlock your leader within’ courses. Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong, leadership is a vital component of team and organizational success. Throughout history there are endless examples of effective and courageous leaders whose actions were critical to those who looked to them for direction. In my 38-year career, I have had the privilege of working for some amazing leaders and for most of that career, have been in various leadership roles myself, (teams, divisions, companies, Boards, etc.). I currently earn my living coaching, advising and supporting leaders and teams, so I understand and appreciate how much ‘good leadership’ matters and I absolutely love what I get to do every day! I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a very good leader, and at certain times in my career, I’ve been a pretty lousy one too. Leadership and all that comes with it can ‘cut both ways’, as they say.

These days though, it feels like there is way too much focus on trying to make everyone a leader and, in my humble opinion, not enough emphasis and effort on how to get things done consistently and properly. Too much time thinking about ‘being in charge’ vs. focusing on what’s required to manage and execute well. I’ve shared with audiences that I really think there should be a degree in ‘GSD’. Yes, you guessed it- Getting S*&t Done! Not everyone wants to be a leader and whether we like it or not, not everyone is meant to be a leader, despite all the fashionable mantras out there to the contrary. We seem to be overlooking the fact that competent and effective leaders don’t get much done (or win awards), without very committed and skilled doers supporting them.

This is perhaps a rather contrarian view to put forward in a blog on leadership. It almost feels like a ‘Rick Mercer rant’ minus the alley and graffiti. (My apologies Mr. Mercer.) I happen to believe we need to spend more time talking about people and teams doing great work, how we choose to show up and how to excel at what we do. Leaders without the talented and committed followers and doers, (the people who actually make s*&t happen), are really not leaders at all. At Compass Leadership, we will support you in your focus on how to lead, but equally as important, how to embed, encourage and empower your teams to execute.


January 16, 2019


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