Why talking about leadership is becoming increasingly tricky

Leadership is a crowded space. The sharing of knowledge on leadership is full of every conceivable tool you could ever want or need. So, you’d think that we would all know this stuff; and yet, talking about leadership is becoming increasingly tricky. And actually doing it seems even harder.

In part, because when we think of leadership, we still often think about leaders in global organisations or politicians on the world stage. And quite honestly, a lot of that leadership is increasingly being found to be lacking.

It’s also a bit overwhelming: you can a PhD in leadership, you can spend weeks and thousands of dollars at a fancy business school learning how to be a leader. You can read literally hundreds of thousands of books, blog posts and articles * yes the irony of this comment on a blog post adding to the hundreds of thousands..

Often when I am talking to leaders, it’s like we are having a theoretical discussion about what other people would do. They see themselves as managers and others as doing the leading. Perhaps this is a function of us using the words manager/leader interchangeably over the years, so that it’s now not clear what either word actually means.

In my first book – Do What You Say You’ll Do, I say this:

When leadership is defined as something global – something that changes millions of lives, something that radically alters the direction of history – this sets up daunting expectations that most of us will never be able to achieve.

However, every single one of us is given opportunities to make a difference in our own lives; to be leaders in our own communities, businesses, sporting groups and not-for-profits. Each of us has the ability to lead courageously.

To model leadership on the inspirational part is great if it truly provides inspiration, but not if it makes it seem all too hard, all too out of reach, too daunting.

The wonderful Maggie Dent has this to say on leadership:

“Leadership can be seen as performing one or more acts of leading that affects human behaviour so as to influence a group of people towards a vision or goal.

Exceptional leadership does this with one other key attribute – it aims to achieve a goal for the greater good for all and for the positive growth of individuals.”

So what to do?

As always, Seth Godin sums it up so well.

You can’t look at the end results – at the Richard Bransons or the Maria Popovas – and say “Well they have that thing and I don’t”. They got that thing by showing up.

That’s it.

  • It is as easy and hard as showing up.
  • Not worrying too much about all the fancy theories and models and definitions.
  • Simply getting on with it.
  • Defining what leadership is to you and in what circumstances, and then living it.
  • This might be by speaking up and out, where as in the past you’ve kept quiet.
  • It might be thinking abbot what sort of a shadow you cast through your leadership, and is that the shadow you want?
  • Perhaps it’s about thinking about your team’s purpose and whether everyone is clear enough on that.


It doesn’t matter what it is, and it doesn’t need to be all encompassing – you just need to start, and then to stay the course, adjusting as needed when things don’t go exactly according to plan.

The TakeAway

We have made leadership more tricky than it needs to be.

A great starting point is to simply be intentional about your leadership, in whatever capacity that gets played out; thinking about what you would like that to look like, how you would you like people to talk about the way that you led.

And then.. simply creating a plan to try new things. They don’t need to be fancy or complicated. Just try stuff out. See what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck!



If the above has whetted your appetite, and you’re keen for more.. Here are some ideas:

Does leadership interest you? You can sign up to my FREE seven day “Be a Better Boss Challenge” by clicking here. And you can click here to buy my book.

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Want some help in meeting your goals? Sign up to the permission to dream programme, by clicking here.

Want more to read? You can read any of the 300+ blog posts on this site, by clicking here.

See you soon,




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