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Leading is an Action Verb

Posted By Jeff DeWolf, Friday, August 3, 2018

A few years ago, I received a wake-up call. After a couple of decades leading people in my home and professional life, I discovered, the hard way, something that better leaders already know:

“Leading” is an action verb.

If found out that being designated a leader and actually leading are two very different things.

For decades I boasted about my "leadership skills." Those words had a permanent home on my resume since college graduation. What I meant was that I had charisma, persuasive communication abilities, and a fair amount of natural smarts... not to mention a desire to be in charge.

The truth is that real-life leadership comes down to daily behaviors. Leaders lead when they do the things that people need them to do, even if they don’t feel like it. Often, these are not glamorous, inspirational, visionary things. They are the things that ensure people have what they need to do their jobs well. Whether a senior executive or a front-line supervisor, leadership is only real when real things happen. Here are some of them:

·       Giving clear directions and expectations

·       Fixing problems when they pop up

·       Resolving conflicts when they occur

·       Getting resources when they are lacking

·       Constructively coaching people when they need it

·       Asking for help when you don't know something

·       Providing opportunities for people to grow

·       Giving credit to others liberally

·       Leading by example

·       Delegating stuff and empowering when possible

·       Helping manage change when it comes

·       Treating people with respect and dignity

·       Being consistent and frequent with praise and positivity

·       Hiring great people whenever you get the chance

In short, leadership without action is not leadership at all. It's just taking up space on an organizational chart. It’s like taking a job as a dog-walker, and never taking the dog for a walk.

The organization I lead, Wolf Prairie, helps organizations equip leaders to really lead. We partner with clients to help them set expectations and create accountability for tangible, daily, real-life leadership practices. Our program is a recipe for real change because it combines the ingredients of adult-learning, neuroscience, and common sense.

Our approach is to present small, digestible, concepts and skills of leadership over time, allowing them to soak in and be applied. First, we focus on capturing the “heart” by sharing why each element is so vital. Then we seek to inform the “head” by distilling down a few key tips and take-aways. Finally, we work to equip the “hands” by providing opportunities to practice, discuss, role-play and receive coaching.

Ultimately, our mission is to help clients create healthy organizational culture and effectiveness by equipping leaders at all levels to really lead.

Does this resonate with you? Have you seen the impacts of ineffective leadership on your culture and employee satisfaction? If so, are you investing in your leaders? Are you holding them accountable to do the things of leadership? Are you doing them yourself? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we all have room to grow in these areas. Leading others is hard, and it takes hard work. But when it happens, results will follow. Leading is an action verb.


Jeffrey J. DeWolf, MOD is president and founder of Wolf Prairie. He’s a frequent speaker, coach, and the creator/facilitator of the Real-Life Leadership™ program. He can be reached at or 913-219-5353.

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