Understanding leadership
September 29, 2023

Acts of leadership (understanding leadership as a verb) – part two

By Ty Francis

Welcome back to this two-part series exploring acts of leadership or what it means to treat leadership as a verb rather than a noun. In part one, guest blogger Ty Francis explained the difference. He also shared a 3-point checklist to help spot when an act of leadership might be needed.

In this post, Ty concludes his series by engaging with how we can put this into practice. Dr. Ty Francis has extensive experience in coaching and advising leadership teams. So, he has much real-world pragmatic wisdom to draw on as he offers such advice. That is something regular readers may recall from his previous posts on developing your thinking skills & playing to win.

So, let’s dive back in. If you recall, Ty has already shared with us in his previous post both 3 signs that acts of leadership are needed & a 3 step approach to act. Those 3 telltale signs were the lack of meaning, expressing value, or appropriate structure. The 3 stages for action were to notice the need, decide whether or not to act & then take an act of leadership. What next? Over to Ty to explain…

Getting real, what does this theory mean in practice?

This might look easy, in theory! Notice, Decide, and Act on an issue of Meaning, Valuing, or Structure. Yet in practice, such acts of leadership require courage. Why? Because all leadership action is done in the face of uncertainty. You cannot easily predict results. 

You might feel stupid being the only person at a meeting that says s/he does not understand. You might feel afraid if you speak up at a meeting where the issue owner has not structured an agenda. You might feel it’s not right to constructively disagree with a Director or colleague who is forcing a point and not seeing what you see. But please remember that one courageous step invites the next one, from others around you. Not taking action, on the other hand, fuels fear and confusion. So – what can you do now? 

A simpler understanding of Leadership

Let’s consider this simpler understanding of what leadership actions are:

  1. A social interaction between people, not just something done by an individual with a title. 
  2. Something that happens only through taking action.
  3. They are a means of achieving results. 
  4. They can be taken on by anyone and everyone, regardless of their level of authority. 
  5. Such acts must be based on trust, respect, and collaboration in order to be sustainable

What does this mean for you? Quite simply, you are trusted to take responsible action to improve things without always going up the chain of command.

If things are sub-optimal on projects, ask yourself if there is a lack of meaning, value, or structure and correct the imbalance. That might be by speaking up and/or doing something. Individually and collectively, if everyone commits ‘acts of leadership’ in this way, there will be both personal and organizational growth. Plus they can make your workplace much more enjoyable!

A summary of this approach to leadership

To help you put this into practice, Ty was also kind enough to share the summary table below. Perhaps you can use it as an aide memoire? He is clearly a communicator who believes in the ‘rule of three’. Once again we have this 3-part framework to prompt us. Perhaps you can take some time now to consider where you might most profitably focus for your team. Do they most need to get connected, get real, or get help? How could you empower them to take the acts of leadership needed to make progress?

To further support your ongoing leadership development, Dr. Francis also reveals his academic side by recommending three books for further reading. Perhaps one of these might be a helpful CPD text for your leadership development this year:

Thanks again to Ty for so generously sharing his thoughts and those resources. Enjoy putting all this series into action. Best wishes for growing acts of leadership in your team & life.