Why Leaders Exist

Why do leaders exist? This is perhaps one of the most simple yet profound questions we can ask about leadership. Oddly, I am not sure I have ever heard anyone address it specifically.

A Clock with the Hands Pointing to the Words Time for Change - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/iqoncept, Image #11038062

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/iqoncept

But until we answer this foundational question, leadership tips and techniques won’t make much sense.

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My answer to the question is this: Leaders exist to create a shift in reality.

Without leaders, things drift along. They go where they want to go, following the path of least resistance. However, when this is not desirable—or acceptable—you hire, elect, appoint or become a leader. The leader’s job is to overcome resistance and make things flow in a different direction. His or her job is to create a different reality.

So how do you create a shift in the status quo?

  1. Identify what needs to change. This is commonly called the situation analysis. What is unacceptable about your current environment? What frustrates you? What disappoints you? What needs to change?
  2. Determine the outcome you are after. This is what is commonly called vision. Getting clear on the what is more important than understanding how you are going to get there. What do you want to create in the place of the status quo?
  3. Decide how you will achieve your outcome. This is what is commonly called strategy. There are numerous ways to get to the same destination. Good leaders pick the one that will produce the results they are after in the most economical way.
  4. Create an action plan. It is not enough to determine your vision and decide on a strategy, you must carefully craft an action plan with specific milestones and due dates. You have to be able to chart your progress.

As you go through this process, you must enroll your team. This is the mark of great leaders. If you don’t do this, you can expect resistance. And, it’s not because your people are rebellious, lazy, or stupid. It’s because you didn’t do your job as a leader.

With a clear plan, and an aligned team, you can move mountains.

Question: Do you agree? Why do you think leaders exist? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Jacqueline

    Great information! So true, good leaders have the power of influence and can be the catalyst to motivate others to move in one direction. They have the ability to create a shared vision and get things done. When I think about the characteristics of good leaders, I think of good coaches. They should be excellent listeners, self-aware, supportive, always genuine, and confident in their ability to affect change. In my opinion, good leaders and good coaches go hand in hand.

  • Wes G

    A great day to read this post as I am organizing my life for next year and reflecting on what needs the change. My simple plan : see the need, burden for the need, take action to meet the need, don’t quit, and keep integrity. I feel some things burning deep within me, that sense that I can make a difference in this world. An inner accountability is growing that to be true to myself that I must respond to how I see the world could be a different and better place. Thanks for reminding us why leadership must exist.

  • Karen

    Thank you, Michael. Leaders exist to create a shift in reality. That statement so resonates with me and my journey.

  • Joseph DC Ross

    Leaders exist to guide, encourage, motivate and inspire others to be the very best that they can be. They exist to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of any team (group of individuals as in a family, corporation etc.) towards the achievement of stated common and worthwhile goals. They exist to provide us with a great example of character.

  • Timothy Fish

    The purpose of a leader is to take the group where the group wants to go. I have yet to see a group where the group didn’t already have a “vision” before the leader was identified. Groups follow the guy who is leading in the direction they want to go. If he picks his own destination, they will find a different leader. As they are headed in that direction, the leader’s job is to identify an efficient way for the group to work together in reaching their chosen destination.