How Every Leader Becomes Leashed

AdVance Leadership » How Every Leader Becomes Leashed

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #046. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you will understand what causes your leadership to become leashed and what you can do about it.

1 Insight

Your leadership becomes “leashed” when you experience a disparity between your current responsibilities and abilities.

A couple of years ago, our family attended a neighborhood party. A friend challenged me  (Garland) to a short race – just 30 yards. I enjoy a good competition, so I accepted.

The race began, and for the first 18 yards, everything went well. I even had a slight lead. Around the 20-yard mark, it felt like something was pulling me from behind. I made it to the 22-yard marker. Suddenly, I flew backward, tumbling in a middle-aged somersault.

Here’s what I haven’t told you. I was attached to the cord of an inflatable bungee run. On this apparatus, two participants put on a body harness attached to a thick bungee cord. The farther the participants run, the greater the bungee tension, until both competitors fly head over heels backward on the tarp.

Both of us immediately jumped up and yelled, “That was awesome!” I looked at my neighbor and said, “Let’s do it again!”

Round two was no different. We sprinted — even harder — and the cord yanked us backward. This time, though, I didn’t land gracefully. My neck and back made unsettling cracks that would demand chiropractic adjustments. Despite the minor injuries, we laughed it off and prepared for round three.

By this attempt, I had learned my lesson. Instead of running as fast as I could, I ran just hard enough to stay ahead. When the inevitable yank occurred, I stopped running and allowed myself to be pulled backward gently. I had adapted.

I had become leashed.

The Leadership Leash

In the world of leadership, we often see a similar pattern. New leaders, overflowing with excitement and vigor, start their journey running full tilt. They embrace their roles, responsibilities, and opportunities with enthusiasm. But sooner or later, every leader encounters a challenge that abruptly yanks them backward.

The first time this yank happens, it’s exciting and challenging. You tumble, fall, then rise, dust yourself off, and get back to work.

Unfortunately, this cycle of backward-yanking challenges repeats throughout your career.

  • You lose a key team member.
  • You take on too many projects.
  • You must cut the budget and make hard decisions.
  • You change roles when the organization restructures.
  • You get a new supervisor who has different expectations.
  • You encounter a crisis that suddenly changes your priorities.

When you face enough of these challenges over time, you become leashed. You submit to the leadership leash whenever you experience a disparity between your current responsibilities and abilities.

Two paths forward

When leashed, leaders have two options:

Option 1: Stop Striving and Stay Leashed

In our years of working with leaders, most of them grow tired of the leash. Like my experience on the inflatable bungee run, leaders get yanked backward so many times, they eventually stop striving. They realize the disparity between their current responsibilities and abilities. They accept their limitations and resign to being leashed, limiting their potential for growth and impact.

Option 2: Keep Striving

Some leaders choose to continue striving, just as I did in the initial rounds of my bungee race. They keep pushing themselves, attempting to grow and trying to increase their abilities.

This determination is commendable, but it can backfire if not done strategically. Continuing to strive doesn’t guarantee success. If leaders don’t know the specific ways they need to grow, they’ll waste energy and time and stay leashed. This can eventually lead to exhaustion and disillusionment, which forces a leader to stop striving (going back to Option #1).

In order to strive strategically, leaders need a framework to help unleash their leadership.

How to Get Unleashed

If you are a leader who aspires to break free from the leash and maximize your leadership potential, take four essential steps:

1: Decide to Get Unleashed

The first step is the most crucial. Make a conscious decision to break free from the constraints of the leash. This decision requires a commitment to growth and development.

2: Discern What Got You Leashed 

Understanding the root causes of your leash is essential. Reflect on the challenges and disparities that have held you back. Pinpoint the specific areas that need improvement. Explore the seven traits that leaders need to continually upgrade: character, competence, capacity, clarity, community, culture, and consistency.

3: Determine How to Get Unleashed 

Once you’ve identified gaps in your abilities, it’s time to strategize. Determine the methods, resources, and support systems required to bridge the disparity between your current responsibilities and abilities.

4: Do the Work to Get Unleashed 

Finally, take action. Execute your plan with diligence and discipline. Invest the time and effort necessary to develop the skills and characteristics that will free you from the leash.

Leadership can feel like a bungee run. Inevitably, you will encounter constraints that yank you backward. The choice between staying leashed or striving to get unleashed is yours. Striving without a clear plan can lead to frustration, but embracing strategic growth leads to transformation.

1 Action

Look at your own leadership. What has leashed you recently? Follow the four steps to start getting unleashed.


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