Leaders and their Tools


Leadership is the technology of realising human potential. In practice, leaders need to use different tools in different contexts. The use of a new tool does not change who they are.

Many leaders use the same approaches to leadership in every context. They either call it a best practice or their best style. They define themselves by their leadership tools. These leaders repeat phrases to themselves like ‘I am collaborative’, “I create accountability’, ‘I am powerful’, or ‘I am inspiring’. These phrases become constraints on their freedom of action. When the situation demands a different style of leadership, they find it hard to work against their self-created identity. These leaders have confused the tool with the result.

Leadership depends on context. The needs of others are different in every situation. Leaders need to adapt their styles to the needs of their situation and their people if they are to realise the potential of others. That means leaders need to choose different tools and have different conversations.  If it is time to demonstrate power, then a leader must demonstrate power regardless of their natural style. Importantly, they still choose the values that they show in their use of power.

The best leaders have a dynamic toolkit of styles that they apply as the situation demands. They don’t define themselves by anyone one tool. What matters to the best leaders is the purpose they are seeking to achieve and the values that shape how they use a leadership tool.

Don’t define your leadership by a tool. Define your leadership by your purpose, your values and your impact.

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