Leadership Excellence Trust

shutterstock_168606473Successful leaders know how to empower the members of their team.  They know that they will not succeed unless they do.



Understanding and Accountability

“If you have a common understanding of the mission and vision, and have conducted a deliberate exercise to create strategies to execute the mission and create the vision, then you have a basis for communication and a basis for accountability and measurement.” – Hank Holland

To get to the heart of the matter, I went back to the leader who had done the best job of empowering his team and accomplishing the goals he set out to achieve. When I asked Hank about empowerment and ownership, Hank first honed in on the importance of clear communication. He held a number of jobs where the people he hired came to him with a plethora of backgrounds and experiences. Hank always took time to ensure his expectations were understood. He realized the negative impact on performance that would result when people were unclear on what was expected of them. Hank was a strong proponent of empowerment. He taught me how important it was for senior executives to focus on strategic issues and delegate as much as possible to the people on their team. He was always encouraging me to stay out of the weeds.
Accountability Is Part of Empowerment

Hank also told me that he thought the word accountability needed to be added alongside empowerment and ownership, and that to some extent, the three words were synonyms. He has always been a strong proponent of processes. As he talked me through his philosophy, he said it started with a clear understanding of the organization’s mission and vision. He was quick to point out that he was not talking about a vision in the grandiose sense – but more like a target. He said, “Where do we want to be in three years, and what will that look like?” He then walked me through a process, which took the mission and vision down to quarterly goals that could be measured. “After that, it is all about execution.”
The Characteristics of Empowerment

Before Hank went any further, he reflected upon the times in his career when he was empowered or empowered others. He said:
“I asked myself in those situations what characteristics were always in play. To me, there was always an element of trust; there was always an element of open communication and mutual respect, which would go along with trust.”
He added that when it came to processes he had always been a big believer in the mission, vision, strategy, objectives, goals, and milestones way of doing things.
To facilitate open communication, which is required to monitor the achievement of the goals and objectives, both the leader and the subordinate need to be in total agreement on what the goals are. Once they both buy in to the goals and how they will be measured, they have a basis for the communication that needs to take place. Having worked under Hank’s “system,” I was very appreciative of the kind of dialogue about achieving goals that occurred on a regular basis. These discussions were not without some stressful moments, particularly when something unexpected came up, but in no way did the discussions come across as micro-managing. Having regular sessions to review achievements against a plan sent a message that the goals were important and hitting the milestones was a necessary part of reaching the goals. These sessions also enabled mid-course corrections, which were frequently needed to get activities back on track.
The Process Conversation

Hank brought the discussion back to educating and enabling by reminding me of the goal that he and I had worked on at Landmark. He recalled asking me to tell him what we needed to achieve the goals we were committing to. He expected that a big part of it would be training. Not surprisingly, he was right. Given that we would be growing the organization from sixty to three hundred and sixty consultants, we would need a lot of training to deliver quality solutions to our clients. “An executive needs to understand what his team needs.”


What football coaches can teach corporate executives

Leadership Excellence Mentorship Trust

Leadership is a huge issue in business and in football.  Both institutions rely upon strong leadership for their success.  When it comes to leadership, there is something that football coaches can teach their counterparts in business.


Although there is a group of people who fall into a category referred to as “natural leaders”, these people are few and far between and in most cases they are unaware of what they have done or are doing to differentiate themselves as a leader.  Given they don’t really understand why they are promoted into leadership positions, they are usually incapable of developing the new leaders critical to growing their organizations.

The difference between football coaches and business executives is that football coaches have to develop and nurture leadership on their teams, whereas business executives will try to hire their leaders rather than “waste time” developing leadership skills.


Most high school and college coaches do not have the ability to hire players to fill the much-needed leadership roles.  They are forced to work with the hand they are dealt and teach or develop leadership skills.


Too many businesses prefer to take the lazy man’s approach and pay huge sums of money to recruiters to find and help them hire the leaders they need to grow their businesses.  There are certainly times when businesses have no alternative but to look outside, but all too often they take the lazy and expensive route and all too often suffer consequences they have not bargained for.


Why do businesses hire from outside when there are less expensive and more beneficial approaches available?  Here are just a few reasons:

  • They don’t understand leadership
  • They can’t recognize the leadership potential in their own people
  • They fall victim to the myth that leaders are born not made
  • They believe leadership development is too costly
  • They feel a sense of urgency which leadership development can’t fulfill
  • They are afraid they will not get their return on their investment if their people leave.
  • They may discover that they are not as good a leader as they thought they were.


If you are in business for the long haul, it might be of interest to you to review some of the benefits of investing in leadership development.  If you have more people who understand leadership and have leadership skills:

  • You can respond more quickly to change
  • You will attract higher quality people
  • You will build loyalty
  • You will cut or control costs
  • You will generate greater morale and productivity.

If you are stuck in this trap and afraid that leadership development would be too costly or too steep a hill to climb, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Here are some easy ways to jump start your path to sustained leadership growth:

  • Read a book to increase your understanding of leadership and its benefits. A few good ones include: “The Leadership Challenge”, “The Virgin Way”, “A Garage Full of Ferraris”, “Turn the Ship Around”
  • Take a leadership course
  • Invest in a leadership assessment for yourself and some of your direct reports
  • Subscribe to leadership insight newsletters or blogs
  • Hire a coach
  • Attend a seminar.

About Keith Johnston

I help people develop their ability to influence others.  I teach those who want to lead how to communicate more effectively and how to motivate their teams.  I speak on how to help your team reach it’s potential and how to generate extraordinary results by thinking out of the box.