Receive a Free Gift: 25 Extravagant Listening Tips for Leaders

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NorthWise Blog

        A leadership blog dedicated to inspiring leaders to ignite flourishing.

Why Your Leadership Scoreboard May Be Illusory

Todd Kemp - Monday, August 01, 2016

As a leader, your job is to drive performance and achieve particular outcomes. More specifically, you influence your team, customers, and other stakeholders to accomplish goals and produce results.

So why does the performance you want to create seem so elusive or unsustainable? Leaders tend to keep score of leadership success by looking at measures that are misleading at best, or based on illusion at worst.

To improve the score, we work to enhance the aspects of performance that we learn about at business schools and in management books. We hire consultants, attend conferences, reorganize teams, reboot strategy, cast vision, train people, improve processes, and adopt technology in the pursuit of greater performance – as we should.

But what if your greatest personal and organizational leadership tool was something else entirely? What if the most viable and sustainable source of your leadership and organizational performance were elsewhere?

Let’s do a quick root-cause analysis of leadership success.

The Source of Leadership Success

So far, we have a three-part progression as follows:

Your Leadership -> Influences Others -> To Accomplish Results

Why might your leadership scoreboard be illusory? The results you create today or this quarter may not be the best indicator of sustainable performance over the longer term.

So what ‘causes’ your leadership? To understand the quality and sustainability of your leadership stream, let’s find the source, the headwaters.

The results your team produces are a direct result of the relationships and alignment you’ve fostered and the actions you and others have taken. Relationships + Actions = Results.

Going further ‘upstream,’ the quality of your relationships and the effectiveness of your team’s relationships and alignment are related to the actions you’ve taken. (They’re also related to the actions of the other individuals, too, but you really can’t control their actions, though you certainly can influence them.)

Your actions, in turn, come from your priorities, thoughts, and emotions, which are rooted in your attitudes, values, beliefs, strengths and flaws, personal history and certainly not least, your will.

Leadership expert and psychologist Henry Cloud says, “Our life is never on the outside. It is always on the inside. The invisible life always produces the visible life. Life works ‘inside out.’”

Leadership researchers Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner declare, “All serious leadership starts from within.” They identify key questions that people really want to ask of a new leader. Here are a few:

  • Who are you?
  • Where do you want to take us?
  • What do you stand for and believe in?
  • Why you?

They write, “The quest for leadership, therefore, is first an inner quest to discover who you are, and it’s through this process of self-examination that you find the awareness needed to lead.”

Three millennia ago King Solomon said it eloquently: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) To the ancients, the heart referred to all aspects of the inner life, not simply the emotions. It represented the center of a person’s will and choices, as well as their thoughts and feelings.

Inside-Out Leadership

I believe leadership growth is an inside-out journey of tapping greater insight and wisdom to produce human flourishing. That is why NorthWise has adopted the tagline, Lead from the insight out. That’s what this blog and this firm is dedicated to helping you do.

Who you are impacts how you lead which drives what you produce.

It's important to 'keep score' of traditional measures - sales, profit, assets, market share, etc. In addition, and more importantly and sustainably, I invite you to consider working intentionally on your inside that your team, noble mission and family can flourish through your leadership. Depending on your values, those may actually be better measures of your leadership success.

So why do leaders spend an inordinate about of time focusing on the state of the ‘downstream’ aspects of their leadership, when significant, sustainable leadership success starts on the inside?

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

Comments (1) | Permalink

Sue Kortz commented on 18-Sep-2016 08:49 AM
Great insights! I will share this article. Thanks, Todd!

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Todd Kemp

Todd Kemp


Todd believes that great leaders ignite flourishing and propel noble missions. He loves engaging leaders who value their own growth, are passionate about their people and earn profit for a greater purpose.

Since 2004, Todd has worked with CEOs and Business Owners, helping them build value in their organizations and multiply their capacity for being trusted leaders. As President of Sunbelt Business Advisors, a business brokerage, Todd worked with over 100 companies helping them buy, sell or reposition their firms. In addition to leading a $350M tech sales region at a Fortune 150, he earned entrepreneurial scar tissue by co-founding a software venture and acquiring a retail business.”

A graduate of Stanford University, Todd played on two NCAA Championship water polo teams. He lives with his bride and two teenage children at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Todd enjoys mountain biking, hiking, investing time with family and making mango salsa.