Why many good leaders struggle to deliver results: a missing trait

Written: 10/6/11
Published: 10/6/11
Bibliography: Peter Drucker, “Managing Oneself”, Harvard Business Review, 1999.

I have worked with many different leaders during my time as a submarine officer, in the business world, and in the church–a fair range across the spectrum from excellent to incompetent.

One thing I have observed many times is someone who is a gifted leader, but struggles to execute a plan or deliver the results they were expecting.  Drucker notes when one is gifted/competent in a certain area (leader, engineer, planner, etc), it is natural for that person to not understand why it is that at times their giftedness/brightness does not translate to measurable results.  In these cases, Drucker suggests they:

 “…discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it. Far too many people – especially people with great expertise in one area are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas…First-rate engineers, for instance, tend to take pride in not knowing anything about people…

…a planner may find that his beautiful plans fail because he does not follow through on them. Like so many brilliant people, he believes that ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show where the bulldozers should go to work. This planner will have to learn that the work does not stop when the plan is completed. He must find people to carry out the plan and explain it to them. He must adapt and change it as he puts it into action. And finally, he must decide when to stop pushing the plan.”

Insert ‘leader’ for ‘planner’ in the paragraph above, and Drucker has answered for me why sometimes even very gifted leaders can’t execute and deliver a plan or project effectively.

“Bulldozers move mountains; ideas show where the bulldozers should go to work.”

This also suggests for me something I have observed many times:   the very best leaders I have worked with are also competent managers–they understand that ideas are not enough, what matters is what you deliver.  One must inspire others and execute a plan to deliver the results that the idea assumes.

Author: steeres

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2 Comments

  1. Well said, my friend. It’s not only the ideas that are important, but also motivating and inspiring those people who will carry out the ideas as well. I have observed that the best leaders are students of people, not only do they know the people in their organization, they know the right people to do the right job. In my experience, this is more of an art than a science.

  2. It is true that ”ideas are not enough,” we need a action plan and then go ahead and effectively manage it .I like the part of the ‘explaining’ the plan.Good Communication is Key..we need to effectively inform the persons concerned ;about their roles and what we expect from them.
    This is timely wisdom,Thanks Mwalimu.

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