The 9 Core Leadership Activities
Lauchlan Mackinnon, September 20th 2019
There are many approaches to leadership, such as:
- Authentic Leadership
- Servant Leadership
- Transformational Leadership
- Path-Goal Leadership
… and many more.
Each of these approaches goes into detail to describe
- What leadership is and
- How to be a leader.
But amongst all this complexity, is there is a common set of leadership activities at the centre of all these leadership models? Is there a simple set of tasks that demarcate what it is that leaders do, and how to be a leader?
It turns out that there is a core set of leadership activities. These activities are shown in the following model:
Every real leader undertakes all nine of these core activities.
The 9 core leadership activities are fairly intuitive, and simple to explain.
Each activity also has a great deal of depth to it. A book could be written on each of these of these activities. For most of these activities, it has been.
The 9 Core Leadership Activities, Explained
Leadership starts with character.
“Character” includes your values, beliefs, philosophy, and commitments.
Character also embodies:
- What you stand for.
- The wisdom and learning you’ve gained from your life experiences.
- Your personal style.
- Your sense of ethics and fairness and what you will fight for
- Your identity.
Character also shapes what a leader will put ahead of their own self-interest, and if there is a greater good that they advocate for.
Character is also who you are, and how you approach things. It is about self-actualisation, and being you. It is being fully expressed as you, in your own personal style.
Character is the foundation of your personal band, and the foundation of your leadership philosophy and leadership message.
In any model of leadership, character is the foundation.
So, the first core leadership activity is to know yourself, and to stand in your character, values and personal style.
Before a leader can guide people effectively, they need to make sense of what’s happening.
They need to understand their environment: the realities, the trends, the changes, the opportunities and the threats.
They also need to have an informed and valid perspective on the key activities and issues that are front of mind for followers.
Perspective allows leaders to chart a path forward, and to be a reliable guide.
It is hard to be a leader without knowing where you are leading people to.
For this reason, vision is a core leadership activity.
Vision is a specific vision of a possible future, mapping out what it will look like.
A vision can also be rooted in the present, such as for example preserving existing shared values and identity.
Leaders are responsible for creating and maintaining the vision, and engaging people around it.
The concepts of vision and mission frequently overlap.
Here, mission is different to vision in that vision is the “what,” and mission is the “why.”
Mission engages hearts and minds.
A mission can be a bold outcome to be achieved – like Microsoft committing to put a PC on every desk.
Or it can be to make a difference – like Apple improving the experience of computing for human beings.
A mission can be internally directed, for members of a community or organisation, or outwardly directed, for customers or an audience.
In practice, vision can come before mission or mission can come before vision.
Strategy generally involves
- Making sense of the environment,
- Working out the best opportunities or direction, and
- Breaking the vision down into a plan of activity to achieve key goals.
Because strategy includes making sense of the environment and identifying opportunities, strategy work typically precedes vision and mission development.
Because strategy includes figuring out how to make the vision happen, strategy work also follows vision and mission development.
Once you know where you are going (with the vision and mission), strategy is the central key to success or failure for any initiative.
Hence, strategy is the fifth core leadership activity.
If a leader has a vision or mission, they need to communicate it to their followers in a way that makes sense in practice.
They need to provide a roadmap.
Without a roadmap, followers will not be able to fully buy into a leadership vision and start walking the path.
Providing a clear and actionable roadmap is the sixth core leadership activity.
Followers will not pay attention to a leader unless and until they are given a reason to care.
Usually, this reason comes in the form of a message from a leader – a leadership message.
The seventh core leadership activity is to craft a series of messages to followers to engage and support them at all points throughout their journey.
A leader must enrol and engage the right people.
This could mean a blogger or podcaster building an audience hundreds of thousands of people.
This could mean identifying and engaging a handful of key stakeholders around an initiative, such as partnering with a the biggest three industry leaders.
This could mean a leader building trust with direct reports in an organisation.
This could mean a consultant building “trusted advisor” status with a range of key decision makers.
It can take a lot of forms, but unless a leader enrols and engages people around their vision, mission, and roadmap, they will be very lonely leaders.
At the centre of the core activities of leadership is your leadership practice.
Your leadership practice is what you regularly do to keep connected to the core of your leadership – your values, your vision, and your people.
It could involve regular time for reflection or meditation.
It could involve keeping an active network and scanning for changes and opportunities in the environment.
It could involve learning and development, or research and innovation.
Your leadership practice is what sustains and fuels everything you do as a leader.
How Can The 9 Core Leadership Activities Help You?
Take a moment and think about how these 9 activities can apply in your business or your leadership.
Which activities are you great at?
Which activities could you most benefit from improving?
I’d love to know if you find this useful. Let me know any thoughts you may have in the comments!
I am passionate about activating human potential – helping make the world a better place.
I do what I can to improve the thinking and tools we have available in our industry and in the world.
I work with smart, creative leaders – transformation leaders such as coaches and consultants, thought leaders such as speakers and authors, and change agents and difference-makers – to help them make a bigger difference through their work.
I help these leaders sharpen their ideas and messages to cut through and be heard.
And I work with strategy so that have clarity, the right plan, and the right action steps to get to where they want to get to.
You can learn more about me from my home page www.lauchlanmackinnon.com
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