The Three Roles of a Leader

In previous entries we have discussed the importance of setting direction, of executing well and engaging your people in the success of your business.  These are the three roles of a leader in any organization.

Setting Direction

Your first role as a leader is to set a clear direction for your organization and people.  Here is a story illustrating the importance of setting direction:



As I was walking down the street, I saw three bricklayers working on a wall.  I asked the first bricklayer, “What are you working on?”  “I’m laying brick,” he replied.  I asked the second bricklayer the same question. “I’m building a wall,” was his response.  When I asked the third bricklayer, he answered, “I’m providing security for a family.”

A clear direction makes everything else relevant.  It provides context for execution and increases the engagement of your people.


Setting direction isn’t enough.  We’ve worked with many companies with great missions, a tremendous vision, remarkable values, and brilliant strategies, but they were unable to achieve their goals.  Executing strategy requires aligning the organization’s resources, culture and core competencies to the strategies associated with the future desired state.  Currently, your organization’s resources, culture, and capabilities are aligned to your current results.

“A vision without the ability to execute against it is probably an hallucination.” (Stephen Case, Former Chairman, AOL Time Warner)

Engaging People

In order to execute your strategies and achieve your vision, you will need other people to be engaged.  Studies show engaged employees are 43% more productive than their peers (Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 2002).  The bad news is only 29% of employees are actively engaged at work (Report, 2008).  This impacts retention, absenteeism, safety and productivity and is estimated to cost the U.S. economy between $254 billion and $363 billion annually (Gallup).

So there you have it.  Your responsibilities as a leader are to:

  1. Set clear direction
  2. Execute strategies efficiently
  3. Engage and energize your people

Which of these roles is more important?  Trick question.  You must do all three, and you must do them well.  Contact us if you would like a free Performance Gap Analysis to determine your leadership gaps.

One thought on “The Three Roles of a Leader

  1. […] why do you care about this as a business leader?  As mentioned in a previous blog (The 3 Roles of a Leader), your first role as a leader is to Set Direction.  If they are going to follow you, your people […]

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