I am happy to say that I am from the generation that remembers the 3 R’s from my days in elementary school. Developing proficiency in Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic continues to serve me well, just as my teachers said it would. Although I may have argued the point at the time, there is no question that developing an aptitude in these three key areas set me up for success in life. I’d say that the educational successes that I’ve had that are very strongly correlated to ongoing career success and so I’m very happy that I was in school in an age during which the students were held accountable, passing and failing were available options to my teachers, and those in positions of power realized how important success in these key areas would be later in life.

My good friend Bob Lank from CEO Global Network shared his three pillars of personal success in a 60 Seconds on Leadership video I posted last year and that got me thinking about what drives success from a leadership perspective. In case you didn’t get a chance to view the video, Bob’s three pillars are:
  • Successful people know themselves (and more importantly the impact they have on others)
  • They have clarity of purpose (not necessarily for all time but certainly for the foreseeable future)
  • They are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed (they aren’t in the habit of folding up their tent at the first sign of adversity)

When I think of the great leaders that I’ve had the privilege of being associated with through the years, I realize that their success typically comes down to proficiency in three key areas. Just like my early days in school developing the required knowledge, skills, abilities in these areas will serve any emerging leader well throughout their career. The first road sign on the way to leadership success is Results. Without results you won’t be a leader for long. The second critical element for any leader to understand is the value of Relationships and what they can do to help you create results. The final piece of the puzzle is your Reaction to any given situation as a leader.

I had the opportunity to speak with Lee Ellis (author of Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton) and he made the point that self-aware leaders know whether they are more results or relationship focused. Neither is necessarily better than the other but as a leader you better understand which way you lean so that you are aware of the blind spots that you may be carrying with you. As a leader, how you react to situations has a huge impact on relationships, organizational culture, engagement, innovation, and ultimately ongoing results.


There is no question that the first precept of leadership is that you must generate results. I worked with a business owner for the past 4 years that was all about results…at any cost. The turmoil this unwavering focus created in his organization was visible to everyone except him. As leaders we would all be well served to remember that without great people we won’t have great results.

Knowing your own behaviours, and those of your team, in this critical area will allow you to develop a strategy as to how to best approach your own situation. One thing is for certain, this is not a one size fits all scenario. There are lots of tools out there to help a leader take stock of who on the team brings what to the table when it comes to behaviour. I happen to use the McQuaig Talent Assessment System to help my clients better understand team dynamics, optimize efficiencies, and develop the available talent.


“Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”
                                                                John Maxwell

Your skills and abilities with respect to relationships impact every element of what you do as a leader. Understanding how socially driven or analytical you are as a leader, what your approach is to making decisions, risk taking , your communication style, how you delegate tasks and authority, and whether you are naturally inclined to act as the coach are just some of the keys to knowing what modifications you have to make when dealing with the different people who are a part of your working life. Of course, that infers that you must also understand their preferences as well. No doubt some of the people on your team like to take charge and do things their way, some may require you to very clearly set your expectations for them, others like it when you challenge them and do well thinking on their feet, while some of their counterparts may prefer some time to think things through before responding. As with results, this isn’t a case of “one size fits all”.


The final element is your reaction to the given situation as a leader. The best I’ve seen through the years look like ducks on a pond. Everything above the waterline looks calm, cool and collected. Down beneath the waterline their legs may be going a mile a minute but there is nothing in their outward demeanor to suggest that they are in panic mode. Your team is looking to you for clear guidance and direction in times of stress. Understanding whether this particular situation is a coaching opportunity or the time for you to make decisions is one of the things that separates the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to leadership capabilities.

Most great leaders generate results with, and through people. In order to have ongoing, repeatable success a leader has to align his or her team with the strategic plan to generate the results the organization is expecting, know themselves and the impact they have on others and react in ways that don’t exacerbate the situation. Results, relationships, and reaction…the 3 R’s of leadership!



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