So many things are written, shared, and taught about leadership these days. In fact, I think the concept has become sadly overused, and perhaps misused. Let’s break this definition down. The word lead can be a noun or a verb.

I was discussing this concept recently with my friend, Joe Calamusa IV, who heads the sales training program for the University of Alabama. He mentioned to me that as he travels the country training sales hopefuls, and interacting with major companies and their leaders, he has come to realize that that most people seem to be familiar with their attempt to embrace the noun, but few of us understand how to lead as the verb.

In other words, we are OK with showing people what to do and where to go, and we simply “hope” they follow. The noun form of the word puts all the reasonability in the hands of the follower, but the one who embraces the verb shares it. And in fact, the verb puts much reasonability on the one who is in the lead.

The first thing that jumps out to me is that to “lead” is to cause. When I am leading someone or something, I cause them to do such and such to go to some place. I actually create a force, if you will…not a force like you “have no choice” or I am “forcing you to,” but more of a plan, a vision, a suggestion, that causes them to want to be a part of what I am doing or going where I am.

The second reality that jumps out at me is the idea that there needs to be a full, continual connection (“to go with someone by holding them by the hand”) with the people we are attempting to lead. This cannot be accomplished by simply speaking to them. It cannot be achieved by pointing them in a certain direction. Even if the direction is right, we need to lead them.

When I was an executive, I had a management team who reported to me weekly. I was privileged to spent thirty minutes each week with every manager, and the first fifteen minutes were my favorite! You see, I would have them share with me from their lives. Not from their jobs. Not about a project, or a problem. No, we would talk about their kids or their hobbies. I would cry with them about a grandmother who just passed or rejoice with them about the discovery that they were expecting a child. You see, I was connected to them, and when I needed to lead them, they would tend to want to follow me because they knew I cared about them, and they knew I had their best interests in view.

Perhaps a good way to understand this better is to compare the difference between the person who leads by pulling with the one who attempts to lead by pushing.

You see, I can push you in any direction, but I do not have to be there…in fact, I usually am not. But if I pull you, I must bring you to the place I am. You come by me. I pull you toward me. With me. The picture is, I am in front, leading you. I think about when I was helping my children learn to walk. I did not push them. I did not give them a strong shove and say, “I sure hope you learn to walk soon, or you will bust your face when you fall…” No! I would hold them by the hand and walk in front of them as their example. I would bring them forward to do what they had not done and go where they had not gone without my assistance.

We can push people and barely touch them. But it is impossible to pull someone without total, continual contact. Another key comparison between push with pull is it that it is difficult to control the direction of a push. But when I pull someone, I can guide them exactly where they need to be. We can create a path of desired destiny.

The third reality that jumps out about this topic is the need to define lead correctly. I need to move people forward. Not just with movement, but a forward movement. If I truly lead you, then I should take you to a place you may never have gone without me. A place I have been, or at least a place I am willing to come back to, so I can bring you there, too.

Over the years, I have had the privilege and reasonability to lead others. I must admit that, far too often, especially in my younger years, I would push them and not pull them. But now, I want to personify the verb of lead. I will cause others to move forward because I am continually connected to them. I am willing to hold on to them until I help them get where they desire to go. By the way, I have people right now in my life holding my hand, too.

Here are the steps to lead others effectively:

L – Leverage your relationships.

E – Be the example.

A – Associate with those you are to lead and who are leading you.

D – Be determined to pull them forward.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

—Ronald Reagan

Lead is written by Chris Gingrasso

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