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What's the shape of your leadership?


Monday, April 18, 2022

A key trait for effective leadership is to empower employees to get things done. Here’s what

you’ll start to see:

  1. You as the leader start to work at the right level. You don’t need to be involved in every small decision. And you shouldn’t be. You’ll have the time to focus on setting strategy, developing and building your team, and all the other aspects of leading you need to focus on.

  2. Your employees get to take ownership. They get to be creative. They get to be engaged. They get to do what you hired them to do.

So, when we talk about empowerment, two shapes come to my mind. The first is a rectangle, like you’d see on a sports field. And the second is the cone shape of a funnel.


Sports fields are generally wide open with some type of boundary usually marked by a white line. The players know when they’re in and out of bounds. And the action of the game happens in bounds as each team tries to score. The coach helps set the strategy, helps train the players—but doesn’t play in the game. The coach stays outside the boundaries and lets the players play as long as they stay in bounds.


A funnel is a much different shape. The boundaries of a funnel start large but decrease quickly to only a small opening. Leaders who fail to empower employees and require all decisions to run through them are like the opening of a funnel. That small opening becomes a choke point and slows everything down. Creativity gets choked off and eventually, employees stop making decisions and wait to be told what to do. Engagement is nonexistent. And no one’s working at the right level or on the right things.


So, which shape are you?


. . .


Jeff Custer is a long-time leader at both private and Fortune 500 companies where he has developed and led both high performance individuals and teams. He is passionate about developing leaders and building high impact teams. Jeff resides in the United States.

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