Every Leader’s Achilles Heel

Achilles Heel of LeadershipThe Achilles Heel: that fatal weakness which can bring you down despite your overall strength.

For otherwise outstanding leaders, it is a lack of clarity.

You may be a brilliant motivator and leader of great character who empowers their team for success and inspires them to move to action. You may be trustworthy and a leader who lives each value of the organization in an exemplary fashion. You may approach your leadership role with a servant mentality and recognize every success and strength of your followers and organizations. And you may be the most honorable and courageous leader on the field. But if you are not clear on your:

  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • Strategies

you will either lead your followers in circles, down the wrong path, or leave them confused and bumping into each other.

In other words, you can have every attribute you need to be a strong, distinguished leader but a lack of clarity is the single vulnerability that destines you to ruination.

Ok…a destiny of ruination might be slightly melodramatic if you’re not currently fighting the Trojan War as Achilles did, but you get the point. When you read about great companies that lost their edge and their leadership status you read words that evoke a true sense of confusion. They lost their way, they lost their focus. Ultimately, they lost their clarity of purpose, vision and strategies.

It is the leader’s job to prevent this from happening, yet so many leaders don’t have this sense of clarity within themselves let alone the confidence and ability to convey it relentlessly to their followers.

This is why I love the simple analogy of dance to make this critical point…

I wrote a few weeks ago about how my renewed immersion in dance is not only lifting my soul, it’s helping me better understand the work needed to be a great follower. I am incredibly fortunate to have an instructor who not only has a genuine understanding of the soulful journey I’m on, but is committed to getting me out of my leadership “comfort zone” to a place where following feels truly natural and effortless. Let’s just say I have a loooong way to go!

But Joel is a phenomenal leader and dancer who empowers me for success by providing a foundation of clarity from which to build:

He is clear on our purpose by ensuring I know which dance we’re about to do. This seems so ridiculously obvious, but how many of us know with 100% confidence the exact purpose of our leaders? If Joel was not clear and I had to do even a small amount of guessing, I might start out heading to the side to Rumba only to be plowed over if he thinks we’re about to Tango. The result would not be pretty or soulful. Think about it, have you ever had a conversation with a follower in which what they said to you essentially equated to, “I thought you wanted me to Rumba?” I’m guessing you have.

He is clear on our vision by ensuring I know what the dance is supposed to look like when done properly, and the emotions it is meant to evoke. He has taught me which dances to dance on the balls of my feet, when to use my heels, and which dances are more staccato in nature. I know which are smooth and therefore traveling dances, and which are rhythm dances and have an entirely different carriage. All of this is critical for establishing the same vision in each of our heads as to what we want the dance – the performance – to look like. Because if we don’t have the same vision of the dance in its entirety, we cannot perform it in harmony. Think about the implication of this for you as a leader!

Joel is clear on our strategies by making sure I am clear on the steps. After all, to bring your vision to life you must align your strategies with your vision. Again, this may sound basic but how clearly do you think your strategies are being communicated throughout your entire organization? Essentially, everyone needs to be doing “the same steps” in order for strategies to be executed properly.

The crucial difference between business and dancing:

Here’s the thing about dancing with a partner: if the leader is not clear, the dance will be a disaster. This will be immediately evident. But in business, this is not always the case. It may take weeks, months or even years for a leader to realize their team is a mess because of lack of clarity around purpose, vision or strategies, but it will happen eventually with the same shattering impact.

How clearly are you communicating your purpose, vision and strategies to your followers?

Give this some thought and join me and my amazing Leadership Chat partner, Steve Woodruff (who doesn’t dance, but did invent Clarity Therapy) tomorrow night, May 22nd, at 8:00 pm Eastern Time for a global Twitter conversation with leaders from around the world about “clarity in leadership.” And mark your calendars for May 29th when we’ll host our final edition of Leadership Chat and send it off with a bang!

~

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Photo of The Achilles Heel by TexMex5.

Comments

  1. Lisa, I’ll go a step further and say that it hard to imagine anyone being a good leader without clarity in vision and strategy.
    John Richard Bell´s last blog post ..Is Business a Game of Poker or Chess?

  2. Lisa,

    You made some really good points in this post. I have seen leaders that had purpose, vision, and strategies that were very successful even if they didn’t have all the other skills that would be expected from a top leader. On the flip side, I have seen leaders that had many of the other “top leader” qualities, but lacked purpose, vision, and strategies and were unsuccessful. The three keys you mentioned are so important! Thanks for the great post!
    Brandon Jones´s last blog post ..Have Courage To Be The Leader

  3. Lisa,

    Well said. A fundamental I implement in each organization with which I work is to clearly articulate Purpose. If any Mission, Strategy, Project, or Task is to be effective there must be a clear Purpose.

    Answering why the company, organization, or department exists will guide every decision. Fundamentally being able to verbalize a response to the question, “What would the world be missing if our company did not exist?”

    You can understand there result if the answer is, “nothing”.

    I hope to join you this evening. Thank you for hosting LeadershipChat. I understand next week is the last one. Interested too hear what you have planned next.

    Be well.

    Scott Smith

  4. Thanks for putting it into words!! Have seen this in a lot of different companies but couldn’t quite pinpoint what the problem was. Clarity!! It make so much sense now.
    Tanja/NXT Media´s last blog post ..LSU Social Media Specialist Certificate Program 2012

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