What is leadership? Meeting the need for certainty…

What is leadership? 

It’s a fundamental question, for all of those with the responsibility of organisations, divisions, teams and projects, and for those I coach and develop.

When you type the question into google, you get 100’s of thousands of results. Which in reality is less helpful than you’d hope. The question you face is; which one to subscribe to?

Dr. David Rock (Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute) highlights that a key part of our human existence is to crave certainty. In his words, a lack of certainty can be “profoundly debilitating because it requires extra neural energy. This diminishes memory, undermines performance, and disengages people from the present“. If we accept this to be true, how can hundreds of thousands of definitions be helpful to creating leadership performance? In short, it isn’t.

Your leadership driving test…

Remember how you felt when you passed your driving test? Relief, elation, freedom? Would you ever have stood a chance of passing that test if you weren’t clear on what it was you needed to do to get your drivers licence? It’s the same for those in leadership positions trying to understand what they need to do to succeed and pass the expectations test of employees and shareholders each year.

Leaders create their own certainty…

As a coach, much of what I do is to help the leaders I work with to start with the end in mind and to define their own pathways and approaches to achieve success. 

The biggest difference I see in the most effective leaders I work with, is that they are able to define their own path or work with their people to create one. They have the confidence to follow their inner compass and find or create certainty where there is none and that doesn’t have to mean trawling google or the library for the answers. The answer often sits before you; ask your people and yourself…

Asking your people…

In my experience, if you want real certainty, take the leap and leave leadership definitions of others behind. Instead, ask your people, they are your leadership litmus test and when you open yourself up to the thoughts of others you can see some truly transformational outcomes.

Don’t believe me? Here’s 8 questions…

Here’s 8 questions to ask your people and get you started:

  1. What does success look like in your role, for you, your customers and our organisation?
  2. What will achieving that success mean for you, your customers and our organisation?
  3. How would you like to celebrate success when you get there?
  4. What do you need to do in order to achieve that success?
  5. What do you need from me in order to achieve the success you seek?
  6. Which of those things you’ve identified do I do well and what is it I do that works for you?
  7. Which of those things you’ve identified could I be even more effective in and what could I do to improve how you rated my approach?
  8. When and how shall we review the progress we are making together?

So often we over complicate things…

So often we over complicate the process of creating certainty for ourselves and our people. 95% of the time our corporate objectives are defined for us and the gap between achieving them and where we are comes down to ourselves and our people identifying how to deliver against them. When you have the answers to the above questions, you and your people will have a greater degree of certainty, you will have formed a greater bond between you and your team and you will know exactly what they need from you as a leader. Go on try it – you might be surprised…

In my next blog…

In my next blog I’ll look at asking yourself what great leadership is and how you can use this to build on your strengths and experience and truly excel in the leadership stakes.

If you’d like more answers…

If you or your people don’t know the answers, you have the opportunity to provide them with the answer or build a solution together. If you are unsure of how to proceed; consider who you know that could help bring that clarity and consider working with an executive coach.

I’d love to speak with you 

If you’d like more information; drop me a note or a call, I’d love to speak with you.


Who am I? Stefan Powell…

I am yourleadershipcounsel, a father, husband, part time rock star and passionately bonkers about helping leaders get the most from themselves and their people.

What my clients have said…

“Inspirational – easy, thorough and methodical to work with while also intuitive, imaginative, creative, incredibly flexible and very accommodating”. Wendy Stern – Chair of Action For Involvement 

Read more testimonials here: Testimonials


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