Tiger By The Tail Tool
Secret 53: 3 Levels of Leadership
When people think of leaders, they think of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mahatma Gandhi. They think of great speeches and people looking presidential or royal. But those are just the trappings of leadership, not the nitty-gritty. Beyond the speeches and ceremonies, leaders must have the vision to create change and inspire people and organizations.
Over my years of observing, consulting, and interviewing entrepreneurs and their teams, I’ve come to see that businesses require three levels of consistent leadership. These three levels apply to leaders in high-performing companies, as well as leaders beyond the realm of business.
The three levels of leadership relate directly to the three key levels of communication discussed in Secret 47. These three levels—State of the Union, Day-to-Day Leader, and Coffee Talk—need to work in combination for a leader to succeed.
Let’s look at each level of leadership from the broadest to the most individually focused:
Level One: State of the Union
On a monthly or quarterly basis, it’s crucial for you as a business leader to address your team and stakeholders to update them about your vision for the company, recent successes, and what you have planned for the coming period. It is very much like the President of the United States delivering a yearly State of the Union Address.
It’s an opportunity to demonstrate leadership as a show of strength, confidence, and determination. People need to see that someone is in charge, that your hand is firmly on the tiller, the wind is at your back, and the company ship is on course for growth, success, and increased market share.
Level Two: Day-to-Day Leader
On an ongoing, daily basis, leaders need to respond quickly, clearly, and confidently to problems and challenges. This critical skill is the hardest to master because small challenges can easily collect and aggregate into a monster, or tiger, that can overwhelm business operations.
Effective daily leadership means keeping those challenges and problems separate, and solving them individually. It requires the ability to make multiple small, well-reasoned decisions communicated to the team for swift action.
As a company grows and stabilizes, this day-to-day leadership becomes increasingly about empowering people to make decisions on their own using the tools and methods you advocate. This is the kind of daily leadership that inspires your team, and reassures staff, clients, and vendors that your company is running smoothly and efficiently.
Level Three: Coffee Talk
A company leader may have learned the skills of good day-to-day leadership that focuses on business challenges and problem-solving, but a deeper level of leadership may still be missing. A leader who addresses business metrics alone—How’s that order coming? Did the shipment go on time yesterday? Did we get payment on the Smith account?—may be lacking a necessary level of personal connection to staff, vendors, and clients that comes with “coffee talk.”
When real connection and relationship is lacking in a business, morale suffers. But when staff and customers know that you care about them and their families, they feel far more connected to your business, your vision, and the company’s brand. Getting to know your people through more personal coffee talk, lets them know you care. This goes a long way toward making your business a success and more like family. People follow a leader that cares.
One entrepreneur I know is talented at delivering powerful State of the Union presentations that are just short of rock concerts with audience participation, shout-outs from the crowd, prizes, and awards. Those monthly presentations succeed in inspiring the team, but only for a short time. Inspiration quickly drops off and performance lags because there is no personal connection beyond the monthly rally. Most of the time, staff just feel like cogs in the wheel of the owner’s business.
Contrast that situation with another company leader I know who schedules an entire day each quarter to check-in and talk personally with each member of his staff. At first his staff were concerned when he scheduled these conversations, but they were put at ease when they saw that they weren’t about their work performance, but about connecting and relating. The effect of these coffee talks and jam sessions have proven positive for team engagement and performance. The owner finds that some of the best improvements and innovative ideas for his business have sprouted from these informal conversations.
It takes all three levels of leadership to be a strong entrepreneur and visionary. As a business owner, you need to touch the bases on all three—State of the Union, Dayto-Day Leader, and Coffee Talk—in order to reach home plate and score runs in the business game.