You cannot outperform your leadership

by | Mar 19, 2021

Leadership finds you wherever you are now but never leaves you where it found you.

Leadership will change you, different in so many ways you will sometimes struggle to relate to the ‘pre-leader’ version of yourself.

I remember a well-known, somewhat outspoken AFL footballer who coached his own team at state league level after retiring as a player. I heard him speak after two years in the role where he made the statement:

“I’d like to publicly apologise to every coach I’ve ever had”.

Leadership had changed him, finding him somewhere and leaving him somewhere else, and if this statement is anything to go by, a more humble and generous place.

Given the multi-faceted challenge of leadership, and its transformational forces, how do you ever know where you are at and where you are going? The sense of disorientation can overwhelm and with that, the fundamental need to remain grounded.

There is an element of ‘buckling-in for the ride’, understanding any effort to control the many factors that will forge their independent and often random paths is exhausting and mostly futile.

In response, I often hear leaders speak of the need to find ‘clarity’ and my first thoughts are “Well, you’re in the wrong caper”.

There will always be ambiguity, the very reason we need leadership. Leaders are in the ambiguity business.

And remember always, you cannot outperform your leadership.


“Do I believe in my people and do they believe in me?”

There is no more important question. You will require a system to work it out, and you need to do the work.

Set aside an hour or so every month, a fresh journal page and a pad of sticky-notes.

Start with you. The leader.

At the top of the page, add the date, and then write down the simple question:

“What makes me believable?”

Then set about answering it with a deep work mindset.

Take a 360-degree view, from the perspective of all of those with whom you require their belief. Your Board, your boss, your fellow leaders, staff, and even your customers and key stakeholders.

A checklist could include questions relating to your leadership:

  • Do you always bring positive energy?
  • Are you a teacher or a teller?
  • Are you focused on getting it right, or being right?
  • Are you consistent in your attitude and motivations?
  • Do you do the right thing, even when it’s hard?
  • Have you established well-understood performance expectations and do you model these? After all, it is not what you promote, it is what you permit.
  • Are your personal, team and organisational strategies aligned, compelling and makes the best use of scarce resources?
  • Do you have the functional capability to be believable in your domain?
  • Are you building a track-record to support your assertions?
  • Etc etc

For each of the questions, ask yourself:

  • What are two of my behaviours that support this value?
  • What are two of my behaviours that are outside of this value?
  • What is a leadership habit that will allow me to embed this value more consistently?

A high-performance culture requires high-performance behaviours, which are established via high-performance habits.


“What we love reveals who we are.”

From “Give yourself permission to be creative”, Ethan Hawke on TED


Make a mood-changing playlist.

As a leader, regardless of what is happening inside us, what is happening around us, we are measured by how we show up.

The energy you bring.

Here is one of my energy inducing playlists on Spotify…very nostalgic, and aptly titled:

“Mood changers when I’m feeling f…ked”

It is playing as a I write this, and doing the job.

…and a timeless song lyric:

“Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys

Well, I’m so above you
And it’s plain to see
But I came to love you anyway
So you pulled my heart out
And I don’t mind bleedin’
Any old time, you keep me waitin’
Waitin’, waitin’
Oh, whoa, oh
I got a love that keeps me waitin’

YouTube, and one of the great film-clips

Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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