Shift: The Essence of Leadership

I have been thinking for some time about writing a book on leadership. I initially wanted to call it Leadership 2.0, based on a popular blog post I had written. In fact, I often speak on this topic. The basic thesis is that the Web 2.0 has changed the expectations of those who are led. As a result, leaders cannot lead in quite the same way that they did, say, twenty years ago.

A Fast Night Drive - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #3237174

Photo courtesy of ©

However, my friend, John Saddington, suggested that the whole “2.0 thing” was already passé. I thought about “Leadership 3.0,” but that seemed contrived. So I decided to start from scratch.

As a result, I have been thinking about alternative book titles for the past several weeks. I have developed a recent bias toward one-word titles, such as Linchpin, Switch, and Rework. This has forced me to try and distill the essence of the topic and summarize it in one word. The word I have chosen is Shift.

This seems like the right metaphor—at least for what I want to communicate about leadership. My rationale is that leaders exist for the sake of creating shift. This is their primary work. If you are happy with the status quo, you don’t need a leader. But the moment you want something to change—to shift—that’s when you need to bring in a leader.

Shift has three different components:

  1. A shift in direction. Like steering a car onto a different road, effective leaders shift the trajectory of the organization. They determine the destination and then decide the best way to get there. The first task is vision; the second is strategy. And they always come in that order.
  2. A shift in velocity. Like changing the speed of a car, effective leaders adjust the velocity of the organization. They may let off the gas to slow down and gain clarity. Or they might step on the gas to arrive at the destination sooner. Regardless, they are sensitive to how fast the organization is moving. They adjust their speed in order to get the organization to its chosen destination quickly but safely.
  3. A shift in efficiency. Like the transmission in a car, effective leaders now how to make efficient use of their resources. It is possible to get from point A to point B with just a steering wheel and an accelerator. But a transmission makes it possible to get there faster and with fewer resources. Good leaders always have one hand on the stick shift, always looking for the most efficient way to get the job done.
  4. I am planning to use these components as the basic structure of the book. Each one will be a section comprised of several chapters. The next step is to start outlining those chapters.

    By the way, I am aware that there are several other books with this same title. However, none are about leadership. Titles can’t be copyrighted, so it’s not a problem.

    Question: Does this title work for you? What would you suggest as a subtitle?
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