Ep. 214 The 4 Pillars of Leadership

The Four Pillars of Leadership

It doesn’t matter if the book, podcast, Ted Talk, blog, or presentation that currently has your attention promises to explain the 4, 6, 18, or 53 pillars of leadership.

Regardless of how someone might name, count, and categorize these responsibilities isn’t as important to our understanding of leadership as is knowing that we have expectations of leaders that we do not have of others—perhaps even ourselves.

Leaders have responsibilities to others that others do not necessarily have to leaders.

The Stay Paid pals believe everyone is, or can be, a leader, so in this week’s episode, Luke and Josh discuss what they believe are a leader’s primary responsibilities. Then they use the four pillars of leadership to explain the difference between leaders and managers.

#1 Leaders must set a vision

It’s one thing for a leader to have his or her own vision, but the key is to have a vision in which others can include their own.

An effective leader will take the time to understand their team members’ individual goals. If an employee can satisfy their own wants by pursuing a leader’s vision, then motivating that employee is made easier.

Luke makes a point of saying that the fastest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.

#2 Leaders must inspire people with their vision

There is a story—highly unlikely to be true—that President Kennedy once asked an employee at NASA what he did. The employee turned out to be a janitor who replied he was helping to put a man on the moon.

A compelling vision, such as putting a person on the surface of the moon, has the power to align people with it. As a leader, you need to be “evangelical” about your vision and inspire others to accomplish what they want to achieve within the context of the larger vision.

#3 Leaders must hold people accountable

Without question, holding people accountable is the is the most critical pillar of leadership. On this point, Luke is firm. (You can hear his voice take on an emphatic tone.)

The responsibility of a leader is to see the greatness in someone and bring it to fruition. And the most effective leaders can pull greatness out of someone when they cannot see it in themselves. It’s for this reason that Luke argues true leadership and coaching are about not telling someone what they want to hear, but rather what they need to hear.

The way to ensure people strive to be their best is to hold them accountable to unwavering standards of performance. It’s a very difficult task for leaders to hold people accountable. This is especially true when a leader gets too attached to their people; when they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings; when they want to be liked and twist themselves into knots trying to please everyone.

But here’s the thing about accountability:

  • A lack of accountability is the source of office politics.
  • A lack of accountability is the result of a lack of clarity.
  • The very best crave accountability. They appreciate someone who will see greatness in them and push them to achieve it.

#4 Leaders must serve

Too many leaders are quick to blast their employees for not hitting goals or not performing up to expectations and stop there. But true leaders help their people to accomplish what is needed.

Great leaders go first.

They lead by example.

They get into the trenches and do the work with their team to show them how.

They are mentally present and stay engaged.

Ultimately, leaders understand they have an awesome responsibility to their team. They have to help their team and ensure they accomplish the vision because they know that success or failure affects far more people than themselves.

The difference between leaders and managers

Luke believes that managers have a primary responsibility to execute on a task. The job of a manager is more tactical, technical, and requires more attention to detail. Their days are driven by priorities. As a result, managers have a skill set that is different from the one required of leaders.

This doesn’t mean, however, that managers can’t behave like leaders.

Leaders, as discussed, have different responsibilities and a different set of skills. Leaders have the job of inspiring people toward a vision. They need to exert influence to get the resources and cooperation necessary to achieve the vision. They need to drive people to be their best. And they need to ensure that tasks properly align with the achievement of the vision.


Key Points

  • Your vision must be big enough to include the visions of your people.
  • Leadership isn’t about being in charge. It’s about helping people in your charge.
  • A lack of accountability is a lack of clarity.
  • Being of service is a leader’s primary task.

Action Item

Examine the four pillars of leadership and work on the one in which you are deficient.

Connect | Resources

Luke’s blog article: The Four Pillars of Leadership.

John Maxwell’s podcast: The John Maxwell Leadership Podcast.

Professor Pete Alexander’s interview with Luke: Episode 94: Winning at Business and Life with Luke Acree

Book: The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Peter Lencioni.


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