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Roy Osing is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series BE DiFFERENT or be dead.
Roy Osing is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series BE DiFFERENT or be dead.

LEADERSHIP LAB

If you never settle on anything, you can’t really lead Add to ...

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Do you flit or do you lead?

Many leaders don’t lead at all, they flit from this to that, from one crisis to another, from one priority to another. They don’t land on anything.

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They don’t spend too long on any one issue because they want to avoid being pinned down for an opinion or having to make a decision. As long as they are on the move, they can “be forgiven” for not clearly understanding an issue enough to have an informed view on it.

They are thinkers who are more comfortable with the rarefied air up high than the details where the devil lives. They tend to be more comfortable with the theory of something rather than practical application; how something sounds trumps whether it actually works.

Those who flit, chase. They are enthralled with busyness. They define the value they contribute by the hours they put in, by the number of calories they burn.

They run toward whatever their boss or executives say is important; they run away from critical issues that prevent front-line people from doing their jobs better. They like the comfort of elegant living rather than the messiness of what goes on in the trenches.

They give multiple-choice directions to others; a range of potential alternatives rather than a clear path to follow. Ever intent on avoiding personal risk, these leaders never want to make the call.

They live somewhere between the extremes of commanding and controlling people and serving them. They lack both the conviction to command the troops to go in a specific direction and the “How can I help?” desire to search for and solve the problems employees face every day.

They go missing in action regularly. Business lunches with colleagues, attending conferences and board of trade breakfast meetings account for a significant amount of their away time. When a crisis happens, you can count on them to be “in their quiet place,” not wanting to get involved.

They hate conflict and will do almost anything to avoid it.

A vice-president of marketing I once reported to had really mastered how to flit. He was a nice enough person, but contributed little in terms of my development as a leader. He provided minimal direction, and always passed my proposals to the president for his opinion before approving me to take action. I liked operating with considerable freedom, but never in a vacuum.

Do you identify with any of these?

1. You don’t feel comfortable making decisions on your own; you find ways to share the risk.

2. You insist on more analysis to support most business proposals brought to you.

3. You are a “consensus addict” and will insist upon support by the many before moving forward.

4. You don’t directly answer a question from your boss; you always call in the subject matter expert.

5. You love to network with people outside your company. You find it easier to honour an external obligation than an internal one.

6. You avoid doing personal performance evaluations with your employees; you don’t set specific objectives for them either.

7. You avoid contact with employees in other areas of the company.

8. You rarely engage in face-to-face employee communications events unless your boss insists you be there; you send lots of e-mails.

9. You have a To-Do list with at least 10 items on it.

10. You are generally not asked for your views on key strategic issues of the organization but people who report to you are.

If you answered yes to more than a couple of these questions, you may be flitting not leading.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.

Follow us on Twitter: @Globe_Careers

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