Tuesday Morning Focal Point

Leadership is more about “being” and less about “doing”

We all love to have action-oriented people and leaders in our companies. Particularly those in leadership who have an ability to drive execution not only for themselves but also for those around them.  After all, there is a huge execution component to successfully implementing your growth strategy and achieving your targets.

The Competing Forces

Notwithstanding, leadership is about so much more. I would argue that the doing component of leadership is far less important than the being component.  A leader’s presence with her team(s) has a much greater impact than the way in which she herself executes in terms of doing.

Case Study

I have a wonderful young executive on my coaching roster; a graduate from an MBA program at an Ivy League school.  He is the VP of Corporate Services for a growth firm and is brilliant.  In fact, he is intimidatingly intelligent as he knows so much about business, finance, markets and corporate process.  I am a huge fan of this young man.

Through the first several months of our first one year coaching agreement, we have coached through several situations; negotiations, conflicts, relationships with direct supports, and relationships with the other shareholders in the firm. He and I have noticed a theme that has emerged. This theme is related to the way he “shows up” in relationships and interactions.  As a driven and action-oriented leader, this VP knows how to get it done and how to drive execution.  However, we’ve noticed that the “leading through people” side of him is an area we need to develop. This has also been validated through the psychometric personality and leadership style testing I’ve administered on him.

Intentionally “being”

This executive has been making a conscious effort to tap into empathy, interpersonal perspective taking and win-win partnering. These leadership qualities are ones that are less embedded for him naturally. As a result, we have noticed a significant difference in the outcomes he achieves in his interpersonal connections with staff. We has also noted an improvement in relationships with other owners and even with stakeholders.

This culminated last week; the executive noticed the improved outcomes. He is now asking me for continued coaching on how to continue to develop in this way.  What I realized is that this very action-oriented doer of a leader was being held back by his massive to do list.  I am a big fan of lists. They relate to goal setting and help us organize our brains for action.  However, in this particular case, the list for this guy is getting in the way for him to lead others well.  The VP has become far too focused on this list of actions. He has been paying too little attention to the leader he is “being” in various scenarios. He has been paying too much attention on what he is “doing” in those scenarios.

Deleting the to “doing” list

Last week, we took an aggressive approach to shifting this.  In his office, I sat beside him at his computer while he sent me an electronic copy of his “to do” list.  I then instructed him to delete all records and history of the “to do” list. He had no access to this list.  This of course took a great deal of risk for my client and I give him credit for his courage to take this step.  We then agreed that he could select 5 high level to do’s that he knew he would have to undertake next week. He wrote them on his white board in the office.  We then worked together in naming all of the qualitative things related to “being” that had led to his greater success over the last few months.  Those items were inclusive of items like empathy and patience. These are now posted around his office on individual sheets of paper.  His task next week is to focus on “being” all of these things rather than doing his former list.


Sometimes as leaders we need to stop in our tracks and set aside the things we are relying too heavily on. We need to figure out ways to expand our range and exercise new leadership muscles.  The “being” muscles are absolutely critical.  My view is that there are way more leaders out there that can drive execution by being action-oriented alone. There are way fewer leaders out there who can do that while fully holding and occupying the “being” space.  Those leaders who know how to “be” in addition to doing; these are the ones that are the best of the best in the leadership realm.

Cameron’s Call to Action

  1. Take a moment to do a self-assessment regarding how you are “being” as a leadership musclesleader these days.
  2. Ask yourself, “How emotionally present and supportive am I being with my team(s) these days?
  3. If there is an area of the business that is not going as well as you’d like? Perhaps is even under performing? Consider the kind of leader others need you to “be” to provide the support they need to achieve. Next, “be” that kind of leader.
  4. Remember to always be working on flexing your emotional intelligence muscle. Tuning in to others and be aware of the interpersonal impact you are having in all of your relations with both internal and external stakeholders.


Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and creating psychologically healthy workplaces