Taking Action is True Test of Leadership


Even with a great strategy, a united team, and powerful vision, if a company fails to take action, its all for naught. Taking action is the hallmark of great leaders.

Companies fall into two categories...

Those that do what they say they will do and those that do not.

Companies that don’t do what they say they will do may even have a strategy that makes it clear which initiatives are of the highest priority. But assigning a priority isn’t enough: The company must still take action on the highest priority and not take action on the unimportant many.

Far too often companies are distracted by bright and shiny ideas that chew up resources and never move the company down its chosen strategic path. Other companies find it hard to break old habits and stop doing the things that are inconsistent with their new strategy.

What are the character-istics and capabilities that support committed and effective action?

  • Do what you say you will do. You follow through on your decisions and/or explicitly revise them as necessary. Keeping commitments builds trust.
  • Offer freedom and accountability. You believe for people to be most effective they need to have freedom to make decisions linked with accountability for their results, not just their actions. When delegating to others, you avoid assigning people tasks and instead assign desired results.
  • Act on the vital few. You understand that 20% of your efforts drive 80% of your results. You focus your attention on those things that make all the difference. You say ‘No!’ to everything that doesn’t support your vision and strategy.
  • Be nimble and patient. You balance being quick to adjust to new opportunities and threats, while giving things enough time to play out. You review and hone your strategy at least quarterly. You have a healthy understanding of how long it takes for your persistent effort to pay off.
  • Track activity and outcomes. You use leading (not trailing) indicators to track progress towards your purpose and objectives. You use initiatives and tasks to break your goals in to manageable milestones and ensure every important activity has an owner.

Sam Walton described the importance of action to Wal-Mart when he said:

Our method of success, as I see it, is ACTION. With a capital “A,” and a lot of hard work mixed in. We’ve said it through the years – Do It, Try It, Fix It. Not a bad approach and it works. There are a lot of people out there who have great ideas, but nothing in the world is cheaper than a good idea without any action behind it. The problem usually is finding someone who is willing to implement it. We must continue to urge our associates to be implementers – action-oriented doers. It’s a whole lot more fun and it accomplishes so much more.

Take time to view your action effectiveness. Which of the above five practices are your weak links? Talk about them with you team, make specific plans to improvement, then TAKE ACTION!

ActionBrett Pinegar