Leadership Is Actions Instead Of Positions

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In the world of physics, motion is demonstrated by an object’s change in position over time. In the world of business, effective leaders understand that action (motion) is far more valuable than any given position. Donald H. McGannon, former chairman of Westinghouse Broadcasting, is credited with saying, “Leadership is action, not position”. This explained in more detail by Bert Spector, who explains that tasks of leadership during organizational change are not about demanding behavior and imposing direction from above or behind, but in leading that change by engaging employees in very specific actions to organically effect change. Employees tend to follow people they trust regardless of position. If employees don’t trust the organization’s management, they certainly aren’t going to be receptive to any kind of change being proposed. As for new leaders in positions of power, Gen Staley McCrystal has explained how he jump-started trust and team-building on day one: “You come with a reputation, but the reputation doesn’t necessarily include trust. It includes an assumption of competence. Sometimes it includes negative things. People might be afraid because they hear you’re a hard-ass. Regardless, the number one thing I try to do is develop personal relationships with key people in the organization. I try to exhibit trust in small ways. In a briefing, if somebody asks me for a decision, I might turn to a subordinate and ask them to handle it. I don’t ask for specifics, and I’m very overt — almost theatrical — about it. Everybody else sees it. The message is: “I trust you guys to handle this stuff,” and that can grow virally throughout an organization. ” It is only through thoughtful action that people become leaders to others. People who do nothing have no followers, regardless of their position.

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The Core Tasks of Change Leadership

Heifetz defined leadership as mobilizing the adaptive behaviors of employees in an organization. Spector explores in detail the five core tasks of change leadership and explains how their implementation can help shape an organization’s environment and employees to be receptive to change. The core tasks of change leadership are: • Develop and Communicate Purpose • Establish Demanding Performance Goals • Enable Upward Communication • Forge an Emotional Bond between Employees and the Organization • Develop Future Leaders. Effective change leadership requires an examination beyond individual personality but focused on the effect of actions taken to implement the change process. By mobilizing and shaping the adaptive behavior of employees in an organization, an effective leader is able to promote and steer their actions to support the organization’s long-term interests.

Biblical Integration

One of the bible’s clearest example of leadership being action instead of position is the story of the prophet Nathan, one of King David’s closest advisors. Nathan was God’s messenger to communicate his displeasure of King David’s unethical actions and bestow his blessings when David followed God’s instructions. Nathan served David by revealing God’s plans to have Solomon build God’s house and when he chastised David for his adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan was no king, but he was undoubtedly a leader because of his actions. To truly lead like Jesus “requires that you love those you influence so much that you help them move from who they are to who God wants them to be, and that process can be painful”.


Not all employees with be granted leadership authority on a formal organization chart. Those who are, and understand that to be effective, a leader must act by leading their organization forward. This is not just to evoke trust and cooperative teamwork, but also to create movement and innovation. Having an authentic leader at the helm of an organization to model a commitment to change is necessary for change leadership to be successful. This is supported by Matthew 5:16 (ESV) “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ”

10 December 2020

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