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Doing’ and ‘Being’ a Leader: Not the Same Thing

| November 20, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading comes from Leading Effectively, the blog of the Center for Creative Leadership and is  “’Doing’ and ‘Being’ a Leader:  Not the Same Thing.”  The essay can be found at <>.  The blog post is by Clemson Turregano who designs and delivers CCL leadership programs for senior military and government officials.

Turregano begins his essay with a story about George, a colleague at the Center for Creatve Leadership (CCL).  George always begins a workshop series with three questions:

  • Where were you when you were 5 years old?
  • What were you doing 7 years ago?
  • What do you want to be in 10 years?

The first question discovers the diversity of the class.  The second usually demonstrates generational positions.  The third, while the most important, is really a trick question which turns on a slight change in the language.  The “do” from the second question becomes “be” in the third.

We’re “doing” the job when we’re promoted to the next position, when we check the process, improve quality, make sure staff are happy at their work, etc.  This is “doing” leadership.  “Being” a leader involves understand yourself, your context, and what you want your future to be.  “’Being’ a leader involves being fully present with a person, understanding their needs, and fully listening to their concerns.”  A leader turns aside and focuses on the other person, making “being” with them the most important priority at the moment.

The purpose of George’s question is to begin the process of breaking down the barriers built up by the constant pressure of “doing” and enable each individual in the group to start the work to “be” better leaders.

I invite you to take some time this Thanksgiving season to think about what being a leader would look like for you.  Then, you can begin to work on that vision.


.  .  .  .    jim