Leadership, making a decision, and the subtle serendipity of the universe.


Ultimately this may just be just two independent events that happened in close succession and I’m just mashing them together to get my word count up — let’s see where we land before making a call one way or another There was a trip down memory lane while walking that had me thinking about the definition of leadership, and while I was waiting in line at one of my favourite coffee shops I witnessed a person trying to decide what to have for a breakfast snack.

Independent Event One

The reason I happened to being wading back through the years and thinking about Leadership may be the result of some recent events, a desire to come up with a blog topic, or simply the joy of reminiscing on moments that are now so distant (and if I’m honest, a little sketchy when it comes to the detail). What I do remember is I was at the front of the room engaged in a discussion about leadership, and after a couple of definitions were offered up, I simply said,

“No that’s management, leadership is about having a vision”.

Over the years, I’ve probably enhanced this definition to include a people component but at the heart of it, Leadership is about having a vision that rallies people, process and activities. Leadership is about pulling people to a vision and management is about pushing people to a vision. The whole leadership-management dynamic, in a practical sense, is really more a matter of semantics because most people (to differing degrees) are doing both at any given time. The one thing I can say with great conviction is if you don’t have a vision you aren’t a leader (and that’s OK; I think it’s fair to say in many cases, at many times, there are way too many chiefs and not enough indians — as the saying goes).

vision [ˈviZHən] NOUN: the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.

I’m sure there are many who can offer a better definition (in both accuracy and wordsmithing) for leadership, but I will have to say it’s hard to disagree with the fact that when there isn’t a vision there is nothing for people and activities to rally around, and although arguably there may be work done, nothing of substance is accomplished or achieved.

Independent Event Two

“ What kind of breakfast sandwiches do you have, ok, ok. I’m not sure which one to have, um, um; Sally, which one do you think I should have… uh huh, uh huh. I’m still not sure; ok, ok, I will have a tea and I guess….”

As I watched her walk away I’m not really sure she got what she wanted but I guess it didn’t matter because she obviously didn’t know what she wanted. Not surprising though, that’s what happen when there isn’t any vision to focus your decisions.

Call it a stoke of luck, a coincidence or the subtle serendipity of the universe, my trip down memory lane and standing in line at a coffee shop was not so independent, and I got the blog topic I was looking for.


PS — Before you use “Leader or Lead” on your LinkedIn profile, business card or CV, you may want to review what your applicable vision is — it will make it much easy when the time comes to making a decision.

Ownership, responsibility, culpability... and progress.

I once knew a leader who was enthusiastic about ensuring every goal (objective or project) had an owner and his thinking was simple — if there was no owner how could you expect anything to get done, and in the same vein, there could only be one. For him, if you had more than one owner, there was no true accountability (which in his mind was more or less like not having an owner at all). 


It didn't take me long to jump on his ownership bandwagon because it's really the only way to get anything done.

And now for the rub that comes with this progressive thinking — since most things don't happen without a team of people, how do you reconcile this with the need for one owner?

You definitely need to ensure you have the right people on the team, a solid time and event schedule, the needed resources, sacrosanct operating mechanisms to ensure action is moving forward, and a solid "multi-coloured" dashboard to ensure everyone knows what's happening — all of this is solid, quantifiable, and necessary, but the reconciliation with "one and the many" comes with the words "responsibility" and "culpability", and even more subtly, the words "you" and "we"

re·spon·si·bil·i·ty [rəˌspänsəˈbilədē] NOUN — the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone

cul·pa·bil·i·ty [ˌkəlpəˈbilədē] NOUN — responsibility for a fault or wrong; blame

you [yo͞o, yə] PRONOUN — used to refer to the person or people that the speaker is addressing

we [wē] PRONOUN — used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself and one or more other people considered together:

Anything you are involved with inherently needs responsibility and culpability, and if it's just you it's easy because you own all of it — and if there is more that just you then these words need to be injected into the group. Ownership is about "you" accepting responsibility and culpability for the goal (objective or project), and if there is a team behind you then that involves expanding the definition of responsibility and culpability to include everyone involved (something imperative for success) — the "you" becomes "we".

If you ever hear yourself trying to avoid "responsibility" or "culpability" then you are falling short as the owner — and if you ever hear anyone on the team trying to avoid "responsibility" or "culpability" you are also falling short, because remember, you own that too. 

Ownership and Leadership... semantics if you ask me, because its true when they say, "True leadership has no title".


Moments — startups are not just for Ys and Zs anymore.


"What's really bothering you?"

"Don't get me started — not taking advice and living in a fantasyland are the 2 that immediately come to mind."

"Sounds like that other startup we were dealing with a while ago."   

"Yeah  — it's the 'I'm the entrepreneur and I know everything so why would I possibly need advice in the sales/marketing/tech/finance area by subject matter experts?' syndrome — it's a real thing."

Although there is some artistic licence with this short conversation it really did take place, and although there are many themes that you could glean from it, I came away with two.

         #1) The startup is not just reserved for the bright eyed youth of today (with an idea and boundless energy) because more and more "40 and 50 something" professionals are now finding themselves in the startup arena — more often than not spit out of a corporate setting with an idea, lots of experience, and maybe not so much energy. Everyone is flocking to wear the badge of honour that is the "entrepreneur".  

          #2) There is nothing worse than a "40 and 50 something" professional with experience and some success under their belt — sadly they believe they know what the fuck they are doing better than anyone else. And yes, I realize those annoying 20 something's also believe they know what the fuck they are doing better than anyone else, although to be fair, it's expected from them because that's what comes with being young (we've all been there if you remember).

I should mention that as a "50 something" I believe I know what the fuck I am doing better than everyone else, although to be fair, I also realize I need to listen to those who actually DO KNOW BETTER — as well as adopt what I hear. I will admit it's a work in progress with improvement each and every day.

The real rub in all of this is experience actually does get you a little closer to knowing what the fuck you are doing better than anyone else, so make sure you tap into that experience whenever you can — be it yours, or someone else's.