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  • Writer's picturePhil Cole

Do you know what leadership is not? (The Three Ts Series)

ReDefine is all about starting at the basics – the definition of leadership – and building from that to the actions, the actual visible things we do in the real world, in our quest to be successful leaders. But before we define leadership, I like to start by doing the opposite, describing what leadership IS NOT. I start here because it’s where I start my journey, and it makes sense to draw a line around the concept of leadership so that we know exactly what we are defining.

At ReDefine, we call the the three things that are not leadership are "the three Ts":

  1. TITLES, or the mistake of thinking that a person's success means they are a good leader, or are able to teach us to be good leaders;

  2. TRAITS, or the mistake of thinking that innate personality characteristics makes us a good leader;

  3. TACTICS, or the mistake of thinking actions, rather than a process, makes us a good leader.

These three ts are things that we often mistake for leadership. The classic example is a leadership expert: when we want to get better as a leader, we find someone who promises to teach us something important about leadership. However, when we dive into the ideas, we find that the person is actually selling us one of the three Ts rather than a real understanding of the practice of leadership.

We do the same thing in our personal leadership practice, attributing success to factors that are more visible than the definition of leadership, but in fact have no impact on our success.

Our goal in this series is to fix this. We’re going to push these three Ts out of your definition of leadership. First, we'll help you recognize the Ts. Then we'll show you why they don’t explain what makes someone successful as a leader. After that, we can get into the heart of redefining leadership and understanding the process that makes us successful leaders.

So, over the next several posts and videos, I’ll walk you through the following:

  • I’ll introduce each of the three Ts,

  • I’ll explain how we mistakenly attribute success to one or more of the Ts,

  • I'll demonstrate how our mistaken believe in the three Ts hides the leadership potential that is present in every single one of us,

  • And I'll show how these beliefs disguise the real reason that leaders are successful by confusing outcomes with process.

So why does this matter?

The three Ts are like kryptonite to success as a leader. They’re a way that our innate, unrecognized understanding of leadership puts us into a box where we don’t control our own success. That’s important – we’re putting ourselves in that box, putting limits on our ability to lead others. We focus on the wrong things, and then we don't improve. It is our very understanding of leadership, our unconscious definition of that word, that prevents us from being successful. (Hence ReDefine's focus on “redefining leadership”.)

Here’s how we change that mistaken understanding: we need to recognize the moment we start to attribute success to one of the TS so we can stop, point out the flaws in our thinking, and see leadership for what it really is. That’s the moment we turn to the definition of leadership and come up with a plan.

If this makes sense, dive in to learn about the first T, TITLE. And as always, if you don't want to miss any of this information, sign up for our weekly email. The link is on the home page.

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