What do Leaders actually do?

The 3 key tasks of effective modern leadership (“the Leadership Tee”)


Modern leaders play golf all day – but not out on the fairway. Their range is within organisations. They play a critical role in teeing up the organisation. By tee, I mean three things: they Transform, they drive Excellence and they Enable.

Let’s take a closer look at the Leadership Tee.

Leaders Transform
Effective Leaders keep an eye on the broader business environment and they seek to change and renew the organisation. We all know the classic examples where large international brands have remodelled and renewed over the years – GAP started as a San Francisco record store; Tiffany was a New York stationeries, Nintendo produced and marketed playing cards. Behind all of these successes lies strong transformational leaders. Great leaders don’t just react to change, they anticipated it. In the words of Warren Bennis, they have “adaptive capacity” and they focus on the broader systemtic picture. Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky describe this as looking down from the balcony rather than being on the dance floor.

Leaders drive Excellence
Effective Leaders ensure that quality and operational excellence is delivered throughout the organisation. They challenge the organisation to be consistent with its standards, values and behaviours. Effective leaders lead by example and set the organisational tone because they know, as the ancient proverb says, a fish rots from the head down. Leaders are ultimately responsible for the reputation and ethical standards of the organisation and are answerable, sometimes in the court room, for their company’s failings.

Leaders Enable
Effective leaders build and communicate the organisational vision in a clear and concise way that delivers on the business strategy and motivates/drives performance. They eliminate unnecessary structures and obstacles and provide employees with the organisational conditions, information, support, coaching, tools and training to deliver on the vision. In golfing terms, they set the flag, clear the fairway, provide tools and support and tee everything up to drive success.

The business environment in this digital and information age has become more complex: it is more consumerist and knowledge driven. This has required a new kind of leadership, a departure from the traditional role of the single leader driving and controlling people and production to a leader much more focused on creating the conditions and environment for others to deliver and succeed.

Do the leaders in your organisation have good leadership handicaps?

Richard Kelly PhD.
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