BE more to DO more

by | Apr 22, 2019

Each time I do a keynote speech, I start with a slide which says…

“Leadership is not something to DO, it is something to BE”.

Some background.

When presented with the opportunity to work in football, the game I had grown to love, I thought it would be a cool “thing to DO”, as compared with other career offerings for a young man straight out of secondary school.

Then, much earlier than I had anticipated and ever expected (or dreamed), when offered the opportunity to be CEO of the Richmond Football Club, the team I had fanatically supported for most of my life, I thought this would be an amazing “thing to DO”.

But leadership is not a DO thing, it is a BE thing. The moment you are accountable to, responsible for, and ultimately dependent on, the performance of people other than yourself, it stops being a DO thing.

Given the hierarchical structure of most organisations and the obvious focus on the leader, it is easy to stay in the DO mindset.

At a practical level, as a DOING leader, when faced with difficult and challenging situations, you default to a mindset of DO more, and expecting (and demanding) your people to DO likewise, you soon learn that DOING is a finite and capped resource.

At a cultural level, by just DOING leadership, you are making it about you. It is driven by selfishness and lacks humility, and dishonours the role. Personally, this learning came from a harsh experience, a time when I allowed my ego to drive my leadership, and lost respect, trust and credibility in the process.

I am convinced that the answer is to BE more in order to DO more.

– BE grounded
– BE real
– BE authentic
– BE yourself

By achieving this, you are now modelling leadership values, and as TD Jakes said:

“Your words tell others what you think, your actions tell them what you believe.”

Getting your ‘Something to BE’ right is not easy, and let’s not pretend that it is. It requires you to go to the heart of finding your personal purpose and meaning in the context of your leadership. This requires a deliberate, committed and regular process of ‘going deep’, understanding that no one can find your leadership purpose and meaning for you. 

Dr Michael Gervais, a psychologist and wonderful thinker on all things high-performance, talks about it in the context of three elements:


  • Being around, and in conversation with wise people (not just those who are within easy reach).
  • Listen to yourself (Dr Michael is firm on the value of mindfulness, stating high-performance takes place in the present, when wisdom is revealed).
  • Writing (I have become a strong convert to the value of regular writing, such as this weekly email, as a means of making sense of your thinking in a way that can then be communicated with confidence).

I would add a 4th element to Dr Michael’s list: 

  • Setting aside time for learning (but not only focusing on ‘what did I learn?’, but also ‘what will I teach?’)

If you achieve this, you will then:

– BE clear
– BE confident
– BE calm
– BE creative
– BE courageous

And how do you know how you’re tracking as a BE leader?

My favourite BE word is BELIEF. In many ways, leaders are in the belief business – creating, giving, and most importantly, having belief.

The questions are:

“Do you believe in your people?”

“Do they believe in you?”, neither of which is possible without asking…
“Do you believe in yourself?”.

Have a great week.
Best wishes
Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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