TACTICS (The Three Ts Series)

(TACTICS is the fourth article in our series about the three Ts. If you haven’t read the series introduction or about TITLE or TRAITS, the other two Ts, check those out after you read this.)

We’ve all seen the third T, TACTICS. These are the specific actions or behaviors that are supposed to guarantee you success as a leader. You can almost always recognize these because they’re “THE 12 THINGS EVERY LEADER HAS TO KNOW” or the “one key idea that will make you a successful leader!!!!”. You can walk down the business section at Barnes and Noble or scroll through leadership on Amazon and I guarantee you’ll see thousands of these ideas.

Here’s the secret – if there isn’t a process of learning built into the theory, I guarantee you it’s a tactic.

So why isn’t following someone's "secrets to leadership" going to make you a good leader?

Here’s the problem with TACTICS, with specific behaviors: the context of leading is always changing – team, environment, specific leadership challenge, even the leader himself or herself. This is true not only for you individually, as you go through different situations in your life, but even more so when you compare someone else’s leadership experience to yours. The context that another person was in cannot be the same as your specific environment, team, challenge, or you. It doesn’t matter how many leaders someone looks at, or how many scientific studies someone performs – every tactic has to be applied to a specific situation. This is why you have to go through the process of figuring out if those tactics are appropriate, and if so the specific manner you will use to implement them.

Don’t get me wrong, you should absolutely grab as many tactics from other leaders as you can. Always keep your eyes open for what works, what doesn’t, what you see, what you read; find as many tactics as you possibly can. The more tactics you have, the more choices you’ll have in any situation. Just understand that you need to decide how and when to use these tools, which is where the process of learning comes in. But if someone tells you that the secret to leadership is these twelve things, or changing your behavior in this certain way, just know that it is incredibly unlikely to apply directly to your specific context, situation, or environment.

How does this hurt us?