What Do Leaders Really Do?

In today’s world, having excellent leadership skills will set you apart from other leaders. Have you ever wondered what leaders really do? If someone is in a leadership role, whether that is in a personal, social or professional capacity, what do they do? In the course of a normal day, what would be their job description?

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I’ve often wondered that myself. Having been a student of leadership and personal development for many years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from numerous leaders and have distilled what leaders do into these five things. They aren’t in any order of importance nor are these the only things leaders do. However, these are five vital things every great leader does, day in and day out.

  1. Leaders are focused on the big picture. They have big dreams and all their actions are aligned towards making those dreams become a reality. Leaders are able to enrol people in their vision. While they can get caught in the small details occasionally, their main focus in on their visions. They are very rarely short term focused.A classic example of this is when the late Steve Jobs was asked to leave Apple in 1985, the person who took Steve’s position, John Sculley, admitted at that time, he was more focused on increasing sales of a particular Mac product. The disagreement Steve had with him and the Apple Board was Steve had a strategy that he wanted the Board to endorse, whereas the Board was focused on increasing cash flow in order to save the business. Looking at both sides, it’s hard to argue that one was more important than the other. However, looking back at what happened, everyone agrees that the wrong decision was made to fire Jobs from Apple at that time. Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple has made Apple the company it is today.
  2. Leaders create a safe space for people to express their talents and abilities. This is vital for bringing the best out of people. When people are not able to express their natural skills or they work in an environment where they are constantly reprimanded for making mistakes, they will feel stifled and confined. Great leaders recognise individual’s talents and align roles to suit their talents. This is where having coaching skills becomes a vital tool in a leader’s toolkit.
  3. Leaders walk their talk. Their actions are congruent with their words. They demonstrate integrity. As the saying goes, “People can spot a phoney a mile away.” Leaders gain respect of their people by being willing to make tough decisions that are ultimately aligned with their visions. They have this motto – Do not expect someone to do something you are not prepared to do yourself. They lead by example.I remember I once had a manager who always spoke of the importance of safety and why we should always do things safely at work and at home. I always had a suspicion that he wasn’t genuine and that he really didn’t believe in safety. (Remember – people can spot a phoney a mile away.) One day during a team meeting, he proudly showed pictures of some renovation work he had done with a family member at his home. Not surprisingly, the pictures revealed that safety wasn’t given any consideration. In one particular photo, a jackhammer was being used without any personal protective equipment. Do you think after seeing those pictures I believed his words about safety? Absolutely not! This is why great leaders are congruent at all times and do walk their talk.
  4. Leaders are learners. As things are constantly changing and new technologies are becoming available all the time, leaders are always developing themselves. They are student first, teacher second. They are willing to delve into the unknown and learn what they need to in order to keep progressing towards their vision. There is always a way! is one their core beliefs. Also, since leaders place great value on learning, they also support their people in learning as well. They are willing to invest in the development of their team members through ongoing training, mentoring and coaching.
  5. Leaders challenge the status quo. They know there aren’t any limits to what can be achieved. They challenge themselves to elevate their performance, and as a result, they have people who are willing to follow them. Leaders are able to use one of the mental faculties, their imagination, to go beyond their comfort zone and draw the best out of themselves and others. Great leaders do this so well that it almost seems like they were born with this skill. However, as mentioned before, leaders are learners, so this is a skill that all great leaders have developed.

Question: What else do you think leaders really do?

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  • Jane Ransom

    Well put! Thanks for summing up these 5 traits of true leaders, Neel. And the specific examples nicely make your case.

    • Neel Raman

      Thanks so much Jane! Glad you enjoyed the post!