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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  • Bill

    Hey, Michael. As always, thanks for blogging. Here’s my


    italicize the capital SHIFT

    add the subtitle about gears

    The F is almost a P, you’ve still got a one word title, and the slanted letters could lend themselves to all kinds of speed effects for the cover art, if your art dept. can get use that to communicate ‘motion’ instead of ‘speed’

    Alas – I just googled – it’s also taken. But you may still find this interesting: site link

    Again, thanks for consistently sharing such helpful and personal thoughts online.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I came up with that too, only to discover it was taken. Bummer. It's very clever.

  • Kevin Agot

    I like this title much better: LEAD

  • Dean Nelson

    Great title…powerfully succinct.
    Subtitle suggestions:
    The Continuity of Change/The New Continuity of Change/Navigating the Continuity of Change…..or something of the like.
    I believe that many are hoping the relative predictability and order of the past will soon return, however, it is quite unlikely to happen.

  • Michael Hyatt


  • Steve Laube

    There are two books on leadership that have "shift" in their wording. I know it is not a one-to-one comparison, but it is instructive to note the similarity in metaphor:
    LEADERSHIFT: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Mass Collaboration by Emmanuel Gobillot (Kogan: 2009)
    EXPERIENCING LEADERSHIFT: Letting Go of Leadership Heresies by Don Cousins (Cook: 2008)

    Otherwise the title works well. I disagree that the analogy is overused. Shifting doesn't necessarily have to mean a car's gear shift.
    We shift position when uncomfortable in a chair.
    The earth shifts when the tetonic plates move (aka: an earthquake)

    The word "change" is the one overused, and not just because of its theme in the '08 election.

    As a leader you rare ask for radical changes, unless you have to dismantle a dysfunctional division. Instead you are asking for a shift, a new direction, a new paradigm.

    Hope that helps.

  • @loisgeller

    I'm glad you're writing a book, Chris…and I'll buy some, for sure.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great. I’ll mark you down for one!

  • @javid21

    I like it…get going and write the book so it can be on Booksneeze and I could blog on it:-))
    thanks for what you do Michael

    • Michael Hyatt

      That made me laugh out loud!

  • aboynamedtracy

    I like the title and I also like how you associate it with driving. I especially like the concept of slowing down sometime. Leadership is not always full speed ahead. I look forward to seeing how this concept progresses.
    My recent post My Birthday Wish List

    • Michael Hyatt

      Slowing down is almost heretical, but it is sometimes necessary. This is where we have to exercise some common sense.

  • Andy

    Great post and idea for the book. I like the title also. As for a subtitle you could follow with the driving examples you are using. Since a majority of people drive this is a great reference point for all who would read it. My 2 cents on the title/subtitle: Shift: A Leadership (or Leaders) Driving Guide. Can't wait to see this come.

    • Wisdomcalls

      I like this train of thought. It's like an Owner's Manual for Leaders.

      • Andy

        It only makes since to me. Also,’Change’ has become as passe as ’2.0′. Shift is better terminology.

  • Ron Lane

    "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." I really like this quote Michael. It is so true. I like the title of the book and will look forward to reading more about it and ultimately the book itself.

    My recent post Self-Improvement: What’s the big deal?

  • Ron Lane

    "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." I really like this quote Michael. It is so true. I like the title of the book and will look forward to reading more about it and ultimately the book itself.

    My recent post Self-Improvement: What’s the big deal?

  • Matt

    Great post, I'm looking forward to your new book. It's ironic, Mac just wrote a blog post about a similar metaphor of a car, except he was comparing it to your values instead of leadership. Same ideas, though.
    My recent post Practicing What You Preach

  • PC

    I don’t care what you call it. I just want to read it.

    That being said, I also love the quote that Ron highlighted. It stuck out most for me.


    possible subtitles might be:

    - “leadership geared for change”
    - “dislodging the status quo”
    - “recalibrating leadership”

    • Michael Hyatt

      Excellent. Thanks for your creative input.

  • AndrewComings

    Not quite sure why that posted twice…sorry.
    My recent post Congratulations Are In Order…

  • Mark Mathson

    Great title choice. I'd stick with it.

    My recent post Praising Others: Sunlight for the Human Soul

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. I think I will.

  • Simon Herbert

    Stoked to read that you are writing a book on leadership!

    Subtitle? What about ‘SHIFT:Driving Leadership to a New Horizon’?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your input, Simon. Excellent.

  • Gary Walter

    That's great!

    I love this quote:
    "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."

    My recent post unChurched…again.

  • AverageJoe

    The title's great, and I love the concept of the book! I am anxiously awaiting the final product!

  • AndrewComings

    Not quite sure why that posted twice…sorry.
    My recent post Congratulations Are In Order…

  • Cynthia C. Cutright

    I love it! I hate when football or other sport metaphors are used because I don't know anything about the sport but the car metaphor really works. Admittedly, I am a car buff, especially muscle cars, but everyone has been in a vehicle and has a basic understanding of them.

  • Mitch Ebie

    I completely agree with the shift in efficiency. Give me enough steel, time and man-power and I could build a bridge over anything, but the point is to build that bridge with the least amount of steel, time and man-power. The only way to do that is by using your brain….that's where efficiency comes from.

  • @mattedmundson

    The title is good (although I would work on the image). For me, though, it comes down to what's your sub title that goes with this?

    Might want to look at your metaphor too as it may not translate that well internationalyy – in the UK, for example, we don't "shift" gears – we change them. We don't have a shift stick (it's a gear stick).

    Hope that helps, and I look forward to reading it!
    My recent post The poem that makes my wife cry – everytime

  • Emmanuel Gobillot

    Hi Michael

    I did indeed write a book called leadershift as pointed out by steve in his note to you. I obviously do like the ideas embedded in the word shift (obviously!). I thought I would let you know that as the book was focusing along similar lines as yours I decided to crowdsource the tile and used to help me out (you may want to check it out its cheap and suggestions were brilliant). Good luck with the book and I look forward to reading it.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Leadershift is a fabulous title. I have never heard of, but you can bet I will check it out! Thanks.

  • Joyce Harback

    The metaphor of a car is so stereotypically male.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It sounds like you are stereotyping males. Not every male I know cares about cars. Not every female I know doesn’t car.

  • MIchelle

    I actually love it! And I'm sitting here completely in tune with the 3 points you make and thinking of how our team works. Good stuff!!! I think your "essence of leadership" is subtitle enough.

  • David Moore

    Michael. look forward to your book. I love the concept behind SHIFT. We are actually have a conference May 27 closely related to your subject matter in Greenville, NC called SHIFT. Check out and @cityshift.
    My recent post Personalize Direct Mail with Variable Data Printing (VDP)

  • Dave Tucker

    I like it and I think you next two books could be called Drive and Overdrive. You could have a chapter that says Shift Happens….. well actually it doesn't happen, you have to make it happen… Just a thought, not saying it is a good thought but just a thought.

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  • daveanthold

    Wow – great title – it sums up what your vision is and what you strive to do – always pushing yourself and others to their best.

    As for the subtitle – Next Level Leadership Gears

    My recent post iPad and Me

    • Diane Marie Shaw

      I like the title Shift.
      Having been on a church staff for over eleven years I will speak for the business of ministry. People forget that ministry must also be run like a business or it will fail. Jesus even said that the people of this world are wiser than the children of light.
      There must be a continual shifting in ministry as well as business. Of course that shifting is done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit but it still must happen.

  • Laura Click

    I like the word "shift" and what it conveys. I think that you're on the right track with this one. I agree that a subtitle is key for a book like this. While a one word title can be an attention-grabber, it needs further explanation.

    How about this: "Shift – The Driving Force of Leaders"

    Or, what about simply calling it "Leadership Shift"? That communicates how leadership has changed (i.e. Leadership 2.0) in addition to how leaders shift thinking, direction, etc.

    My recent post Seven Tips for Developing Relationships Online

  • Bianca

    i like it. Great article!….excited about the book! All the subtitle suggestions sound great! The only one i can think of is:

    Shift: Gearing up your leadership

    …;) Happy Writing!

  • Peter Eleazar

    I love your vulnerability. I also like Shift, but I sense you are still wary of it being an already used name. I have faced similar issues personally and I once advised a large bank to look for a one word strap line, rather than what had become a well-worn pattern of three worders. Shift certainly says it all, but it does have one connotation – to continue doing what you are doing, i.e. shift to a higher gear. That, to me, is a conflicting idea, for you cannot continue doing the same thing and still expect a different outcome.

  • Damon McDaniel

    Shift – Leaders in the Fast Lane

  • Alan

    Love the title. But hey, I'm biased. Leadership and motorsports are two of my hobbies. If you're going to pursue the driving theme, I would recommend going to driving school. Seriously, besides being a boat-load of fun, there are significant leadership parallels that can be gleaned from the experience. Good luck!

  • Bridget Haymond

    I really like the title of SHIFT. I like the car metaphor with the shifting of gears to control or maintain proper speed, decrease speed or go into reverse to change direction.

    However, being a native Californian my mind also went to the SHIFT of tectonic plates, the force that produces earthquakes – not fun to go through, but the result of many beautiful mountains. A shift in perspective, position, procedure or people can often produce the same results.

    A possible subtitle could be “The Power and Potential of Leadership”

    I look forward to reading your book once it’s available!

  • Monte

    I love the metaphor! Subtitle?: Change the Trajectory of your World.
    When can we pre-order?

  • @heydluv

    I'm studying Leadership & Organizational Change at school and all I want to say is that the title is PERFECT! I can't wait to read what you have to say because not only am I studying this topic at school, I also love learning about leadership for the benefit of my personal growth. Thanks!

  • Ed Underwood

    I've led firemen, soldiers, and Christians as a pastor. Not sure shift works for me. It's cool and memorable, but misrepresents the difficulty of courageous leadership. I think more of jump start. But maybe that's because my leadership challenges have been pretty severe.

  • Tiffany

    I love the book idea! Here's a suggestion– "Shift: Leadership in Action"…it could work! :)