The Unintentional Executive, Vol. IV

I saw a fabulous quote the other day. It was from Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, and it stated, “Leadership is not about accumulating power. It’s about inspiring support for your ideas.” It is such a simple phrase, but has such far reaching implications.

As a leader in any organization, the truth is that your job is to show people the way. You are there to set the example. You are there to inspire people to follow the path you create. This is captured very clearly in the root of the word. Lead is defined as ‘to show someone the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them’. I see nothing in that word or definition that would indicate purpose is amassing organizational breadth or power.

Yet too many times we see leaders come into organizations and do exactly the opposite of what they should do. These ‘career executives’ are focused on expanding their reach, many times through discrediting others. They are not focused on solving problems, but rather, casting everything that has happened before them as broken and in need of their fixing. They won’t hesitate to distrust and disrespect the very people that they are supposed to be leading. They don’t inspire. They are confusing, divisive and demotivating. In what organization does that lead to improved performance?

Having entered a number of scenarios as a leader, I can attest to the fact that most of the talent that you need to be very effective in most situations already exists. But to find it, you must be prepared to listen and extend the appropriate courtesy. You will absolutely find people that are miscast in their current roles. In addition, you will find people ready to assume more responsibilities. There will be people that simply need guidance and coaching. And yes, there may be people that need to be moved out of the organization for one reason or another, but in my experience, that is always a small percentage; the exception, not the rule.

So if you find yourself in an organization where a leader or leaders is casting the majority of their people negatively, you really need to examine the reasons. Is it about leadership, or is it about expansionism? Is it about working above the line and creating positive change, or is it about tearing everything down to make themselves look better? Is it about showing the way and setting an example that inspires you to follow, or does it make you want to run out the door? If you find yourself fortunate enough to be in a leadership position, ask yourself what kind of leader you want to be. Always remain vigilant against picking up bad habits, like talking before listening, assuming everyone else is wrong, and distrusting the motivations of those you meet.

Go to Vol. V
Back to Vol. III

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3 Responses to The Unintentional Executive, Vol. IV

  1. Naren Rajappa says:

    I heard a reference to your blog today by Dustin and actually read the series on the unintentional executive series. (Finally!)

    Reading your thoughts reminds me of this adage you might have heard….

    Good Judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement!

    There is a inherent clarity in your thought that shows in your blog and while the writing itself seems simple, it leaves a lot to ponder! I am particularly curious on the piece about “listening”! Were you “always” a good listener?

    It sounds extremely simple the way you put it and yet it isn’t!More often than not, I find myself guilty of not listening enough in work or life situations. There is a self imposed need for saying something lest people will assume you do not have an opinion or a clue. Ignorance in this society seems to put people 3 steps behind! While the mind experts may attribute this to insecurity and other things ego centric….isn’t there a maturity that is needed before listening becomes a habit? Does a person’s personality (extrovert/introvert) contribute to this trait in a person? Can an outgoing person be a good listener? Or put another way, Is it easier for a quiet and introverted person to have this as a trait?

    Sorry for the ramble, but I am now subscribed to your blog…and you may just regret that. 🙂


    • jimhoefflin says:


      Thank you so much for the great comments and questions. Your questions about “listening” are terrific, but I am certain I don’t have many of the answers. For me, I think being a software developer actually is what made me start to be a good listener. Early in my career, when trying to debug complicated inventory systems, I learned that people working in the warehouse actually had incredibly detailed information about boxes and their movements from hours before. From then on, I guess I always tried to listen as much as possible and really hear what clues they had to offer. It simply made my job easier. Interestingly, that theme has always carried through. If you simply ask all of the people around you, and concentrate on listening to what is really being said, you find most of the answers are right in front of you all along.


      • Naren Rajappa says:

        Yes. I see what you are saying. Maybe, realizing this is the harder part and sooner the people realize it, the better they are for it and the rest is easier than we think…


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