Guest Editorial
By Chad Storlie
It’s not a game
The first rule of leadership club: don’t talk about leadership

e live in a jaded world when it comes to leadership. We have all heard the person who gives incredible advice on team leadership, recites maxims on how to enable employees, but then, when such leadership is most critical, the same person fails horribly to lead even by the most fundamental measures. Too many have talked a great leadership “game” only to have their own leadership fall woefully short of the most basic expectations.

Being a leader means more than flowery words and motivating speeches with classic quotes from Patton. The best leaders are humble, compassionate, focus on results. They possess the mind of a teacher, the ethics of a child, fearlessness in the face of difficult decisions and a dedication to promote the team’s results over their own career aspirations.

True leaders treat others with respect, achieve goals, innovate, improve, serve customers, teach and develop people to be ready for greater challenges. A true leader focuses on action, open discussion, frontline presence and proof of results. Let us break those ideas down.

Lead with humility. Humble leaders realize they don’t have all the information, insight and background to solve every problem of the organization. They recognize that others are essential to their success. How a leader handles mistakes in front of the team is key. A leader who can learn from mistakes in front of a group is showing humility, honesty and fearlessness that can guide an organization toward success.

Lead with proof. Leaders who appreciate and ask for open proof and clear evidence create waves of commitment in their organizations. Evidence-based leaders drive commitment because they are honest, open and clear concerning the results they want to achieve and the manner those achievements will be calculated. Proof persuades the most die-hard skeptics. Leaders will share results with the entire team. Leaders who seek proof are more open to initiative because when someone finds a new technique to improve a process, the worth of their efforts is in the evidence.

Chad Storlie headshot

Lead without fear. Fear can destroy organizations, initiatives and people. Teams that are afraid will not act, will not innovate and will not learn because they are terrified of failure. Great leaders know that stasis, not action, is what organizations should fear. Leaders work themselves and their teams through fear because success comes when fear of the unknown, fear of the competition and fear of failure are discarded. In my days training in the U.S. Army, we were punished for being afraid and failing to take action. Fear leads to paralysis.

Lead to create. Building, the process of creation, is done to solve problems for people, products and services. The creative process finds success in people, concepts, innovations and locations where others see only past failure, prospective failure or a cloud of indecision. Creativity is an action step that chooses resolute stages over perfect analysis and ineffectual activities that do not solve the problem.

Lead to change. Every organization must continually adapt to variables that evolve over time in order to successfully execute its primary purpose. Leading to change is the process that aligns the organization’s purpose with new requirements, customer demands, competitive and cost factors, internal resources (especially employees), and culture to ensure the organization keeps up with the changing world.

Lead each person. Leadership is a group activity that must be exercised toward the styles, feelings and needs of an individual on the team. Competent leaders interact with each team member according to their styles and create an environment where all members believe they are essential, critical and valued.

Lead for today. No leader’s position is ever guaranteed. Leaders must lead for today, improve for today and help others become better for today. A focus on the present helps the team manage problems bearing down on the organization. Leading for today means being an immediate problem solver because you may not be present tomorrow to fix the problem. Focusing on today frees leaders to enable, teach and drive their team to reach what is possible right now.

In the leadership club, deeds and actions, not words and maxims, are what drive a team toward success.

Chad Storlie is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer and an adjunct professor of Marketing at Flagler College. He is a midlevel B2B marketing executive and an author on leadership, business, military and technology.