Leadership Impact – Why Your ‘How’ Matters – Part 2

A Tale of Two Leaders – Coach and CEO

In my previous post in this series, I described how a youth football coach neglected to own his leadership impact and one of the consequences of his approach.

Leadership Impact: Football Helmet

Photo Credit: E. Kemp

A few weeks before this incident, I met a dedicated woman who has served as an employee at a faith-based youth services non-profit for nearly 60 years. When asked the secret to working there for so long, she replied:

“I serve a great boss and a great mission.”

I have the privilege of working with her boss, Dan, the CEO. He’s a talented yet humble servant-leader who owns his leadership impact and continues to work to improve his leadership. A seasoned executive, Dan is not satisfied with where he is as a leader. He knows that to stay true to his mission and reach the vision he has cast, good stewardship insists that he sharpen and magnify his leadership strengths so that he can finish well.

Three Big Implications

I submit to you that every leader should own their leadership impact ‘How’ because of three Big Implications:

1. Implication of Engagement

The football coach demotivated and ultimately lost some players with his approach. Some just tolerated him. Few seemed to respect him. The coach didn’t own his leadership impact ‘How’ and lost sight of a mission that was bigger than X’s and O’s, wins and losses.

Dan’s leadership approach, conversely, inspires and helps draw out the best in his team. Dan is highly regarded by his executive team and Board of Directors, as his 360 review makes clear. The contrast between these two leaders suggests an important lesson for us:

When you own your leadership impact ‘How,’ your team will engage.

2. Implication of Performance

It was never clear to me that the coach successfully scared any players into executing their assignments well. The coach’s means of influence simply did not motivate these young learners. Consequently, team performance suffered in various ways. A reasonably talented football team finished 1-7 on the season. Sadly, one kid who needed the positive influence of sports, team and coach, quit the team demoralized. Over the course of the season I heard some parents express their dissatisfaction with the coach, including Mr. “HIT Somebody,” who nearly did so in a lively exchange with the coach during the last game.

In contrast, with Dan at the helm, his team has made great strides forward in transforming the lives of at-risk youth around the U.S. Of course, many elements contribute to a successful enterprise. For Dan, one element shines in contrast to the football coach:

When you own your leadership impact ‘How,’ your team will perform.

3. Implication of Sustainability

It is possible to engage teams and even produce results in the short-term with bullying tactics. Under such conditions, however, team engagement and results are typically not sustainable.

Some players on the football team finished the season questioning whether they would even continue playing football. A few chose not to attend the end-of-season party. One parent said she was “so done” with the negativity her son experienced from the coach. Another parent said he would switch to a different program next year because of this particular coach.

In his eight years as CEO, Dan has intentionally changed the culture of his organization. He made some staff changes. He cast a fresh vision. He defined and measured some new key performance indicators. Today, Dan’s team flourishes. Moreover, he has positioned the organization for even greater impact in the years ahead. These two figures have another lesson for leaders:

When you own your leadership impact ‘How,’ your team will become sustainable.


In her book, How We Lead Matters, Chairman and former CEO of Carlson, Marilyn Carlson Nelson writes:

“Never forget that your role as a leader is to be a steward for future generations.”

Stewardship is the purpose of leadership. We lead in order to serve a greater mission or purpose, so that others may flourish, and to sustain these positive effects.

Purposeful leadership invites us to own our leadership impact ‘How.’ Why should you own it?

1. Implication of Engagement – when you own it, your team will engage.

2. Implication of Performance – when you own it, your team will perform.

3. Implication of Sustainability – when you own it, your team will become sustainable.

Let’s own our leadership impact ‘How’ and help our teams flourish!

Question: In what ways have you noticed leaders own (or ignore) their leadership impact ‘How’ and what were the implications? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I invite you to join the conversation.