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  • Writer's pictureThe Consigliori

The Five Stages of Leadership Thinking

I build tools to do consulting stuff better. First one was in 1989. And I have a method. I analyze things, build a theory, test it, and if the answer works, the new tool is good. Always surprising, the best tools have shocking powers in execution that could never be dreamed of beforehand.

Today’s story is a bit different. I was simply trying to describe a business leader and had no idea I was building a tool. But analysis is a strange monster and it creates the most amazing things. Consider the following five stages. They are a tool, or well, they’re more like just what you’re supposed to do when you lead. Take a look.

  1. Destiny

  2. Challenge

  3. Situations

  4. Friendship

  5. Return On Investment (ROI)

No, they’re not WHAT you do, they’re exactly HOW you’re supposed to think about what you’re going to do. Just to be 100% clear. There isn’t anything you do that you don’t think about first. It always happens. So, let’s follow the thinking.

When you lead, you have to lead somewhere. But where? As a business person you surely have your own destiny. However, as a leader, your destiny is not just personal, you serve the destiny of the business itself. No matter what you want to get done, you need to check it against that. Where are you leading your company to? A business has a story. What’s yours? How is your company the hero and who is it saving? What’s your company’s destiny?

The moment you decide, you will be hit by challenges. And if you have good people surrounding you, they’ll be honored to work those challenges through with you. Good followers are never sycophants, afraid to tell you what they really think. The more your best people challenge you, the less life has to. Until…

You’re in a situation. That is, all leadership occurs inside situations at which point, you can’t have everyone challenging you. Rather, once in the situation, they need to follow your lead and support you. But look again! In a situation, your strengths and weaknesses will be revealed, as also will the strengths and weaknesses of your firm, your team, your method, etc. It is only in real world situations that your strengths and weaknesses can be known.

And once faced with your own strengths and weaknesses, you will clearly need friends. It’s one of the greatest missing elements of leadership thinking. No one gets anything serious done without friends to help. What’s more, you damn well better be a good friend to your followers or they won’t follow you long.

If you have those four things in place, you’re certain to measure up. Your work will create results, rewards, return, profit. Wrapping back around, every thought in your head, and every decision you make needs to find its way first to your top line, and second to your bottom line. We can fight about the ethics of profit and capitalism another time. In business, we’re capitalists. Profit is good.

It still kind of breaks my brain but those five things sum up leadership thinking. And, when you think things through properly, that’s how good decisions are made. And good decisions lead to solid execution.

Don’t be embarrassed to struggle over the clarity and simplicity here, I sure do. Yet, I keep going over these five stages of leadership thinking and low and behold, they’re helping wherever I apply them.


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