Leadership Drift: How Not to Get Caught Up In Tactics

Leadership drift is a dangerous trap. Have you ever felt like you’re moving so fast and reacting to all the things around you that you aren’t clear about what you’re doing – or why you’re doing it? Leadership drift, a term first coined by leadership guru Bob Lee, is a common phenomenon that many leaders face. Rather than dealing with complex, strategic issues and opportunities that can really propel you, your team, and the business forward, leaders get caught up in fire fighting and dealing with tactical issues that prevent them from achieving optimal performance.

What are some signs of leadership drift?

  • You’re solving problems that that tend to be technical in nature and could be tackled by other people who are lower on the organizational chart.
  • You’ve not expressed your vision about where you want your organization to go lately, so others aren’t clear and aligned about the direction you’re heading.
  • People on your team (and you for that matter) aren’t clear about how the team needs to work together to accomplish all that its setting out to do.
  • You’re burned out and can’t remember why you took this leadership role in the first place!

Given those signs, what are some things that you can do to avoid leadership drift?

  • Be deliberate about setting time aside to self-reflect.
    • Ask: What is my vision and is how I am showing up as a leader helping or hindering our success?
  • Create space for your team to “press pause” and think about what they are doing and why they are doing it; you’ll probably find that there is a lot of energy being spent on things that aren’t actually all that important.
    • Ask: Based on our collective purpose, what about the way we work is working? And what’s not? Do we have the right communication, decision-making and accountability mechanisms in place?
  • Build a community of leaders aimed at exchanging best practices about leading effectively and discussing strategies for overcoming obstacles.
    • Ask: As leaders, what can we learn from each other? What are we doing that’s working that we should share with one another?

Net – net: Catch the drift before it’s become a problem – you and your team could end up in a destination much different from the one you are targeting.

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Brian Glaser
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