Your Most Important Leadership Tool

When in a leadership position, the spotlight is always on us. Everything we say and do is under scrutiny; the way we walk into a room, the way we stand, our handshake, our eye contact, our smile, our rate of speech; the list is almost endless. Even if we sit and say nothing, it’s being scrutinised.

Everything we say, don’t say, do or don’t do conveys a message; a smile, a raised eyebrow, a turned away posture or a nod of the head all send information (both positive & negative) to others.

Leadership (according to the GLOBE study) is, “the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members”.

There are a lot of posts that read, “The n (insert any number between 5 & 60) leadership tools that will help you succeed”.

Some are hard-skills, things like: RASCI charts, SIPOC maps, Fishbone cause and effect diagrams or Force field analysis; others are more soft-skills, things like: empathy, listening, building rapport or creativity.

So, what is our most important leadership tool? Is it Powerful presentation techniques? Is it Mighty motivation skills? Is it Incredible influencing ability? Or, is it even Awesome authenticity?

They probably all (with tongue firmly out of cheek) have their part to play, but they are what we do with the tool – they are not the tool itself.

The tool itself (as you have probably already worked out) is about 70 kg (a rough average) of flesh, blood, bones, fat & water. 70 kg or roughly 14 UK gallons is not a lot, but it’s amazing what we can do with it. We can influence people, we can motivate them, we can persuade them, we can get them to follow us – at least we can, when we use the tool correctly

Most tools are “mono-purpose”; a hammer, for example, is good at knocking in nails – you may get a screw into place with it but other than that the hammer is limited in what it can do (I’ve excluded things like hitting people with it and breaking nuts).

Our most important tool is multi-purpose; we can use it to excite people, we can use it to make people feel happy, we can use it to get things moving; we can also use it to disappoint people, to make them feel sad, or even aggress them.

We are our most important leadership tool; listening, motivating, influencing, identifying stakeholders, speaking to crowds, etc. is what we do with the tool, but the tool itself is ourselves.

Like all tools it needs to be looked after, well oiled, regularly sharpened, kept clean and, maybe most importantly, used consciously; even knocking in nails is not as easy as it may seem – if you don’t concentrate on what you are doing ……… ouch!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denigrating learning leadership skills; presentation techniques, negotiation skills, effective listening, conflict resolution methods and such like are of paramount importance (I spend a large part of life helping people to develop those kind of things) and they clearly help people to better incarnate their leadership capacity.

But at the end of the day, it’s that 70 kg of flesh, blood, bones, fat & water that is going to make the difference, or not.

As John Wooden, the famous American basketball coach said, “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example

Bob Larcher
Bob Larcher
Bob Larcher is an independent leadership development consultant; he has been designing & delivering personal, team & leadership development programs for almost 35 years, both in English and in French and his clients include Blue Chip corporate giants, Charities, Start-ups, and the Public Sector. Bob is also a visiting lecturer at several French Business Schools. Since his first leadership seminar in 1986, Bob has designed and delivered in excess of 3000 days of training & coaching. His background is in Outdoor Management Development and he was previously a shareholder of a major player in the UK market; he is an Accredited Practitioner of the UK Institute of Outdoor Learning and a member of the panel reviewing articles for their journal, “Horizons”. He is based in Toulouse in France but works all over Europe. Bob is an accredited Insights Discovery Personal Profile user, an accredited Integrated Leadership Measure user and a Master Trainer in Mental Toughness. He also designs customized 360° leadership & management evaluations Bob is passionate about helping people to discover, develop and deploy their leadership capacity in order to enable them to drive the personal, organizational and societal transformations they are involved in.


Please Login to comment
Notify of
Ken Vincent
Ken Vincent

All of what you say, Bob, is true. Yes, a leader is always under a microscope. I think we have a tendency to make things more complicated than they are sometimes, and leadership is one of those. The topic has been rolled, patted, baked, dissected, examined, and defined in books, articles, seminars, bars, and coffee shops.

For my money, the ability to read others is the single most important tool of leadership. A leader can’t effectively choose and use any of the leadership tools unless the leader can determine what will best work. That hinges on finding the person’s hot buttons, motivations, needs, and in general what makes him/her tick. Then, and only then can the leader find the method (s) to motivate that person.

Maureen Nowicki
Maureen Nowicki

Bob, I believe both Ken and Vince made the most relevant points that also come to my mind. It is the person, it is the experience of that person all rolled into one that makes the leader hands down. Powerful insights!

Laura Staley
Laura Staley

Thank you for this article, Bob. I think it’s the actual “being” inside the blood, bones, flesh, fat, water. Who you are as a person, the energy presence you are is the key. Bringing deep self-awareness mixed with your values to that still strong being inside remains the crucial key for all people who inspire others into positive action. They model this. They live this energy presence in their lives. They can shift the vibration of an entire room of people with their silent, awakened love, awareness, and compassion. Becoming aware of your heart’s knowledge will take you there. Lao Tzu captures the essence of this: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

Darlene Corbett
Darlene Corbett

I really enjoyed this article Bob! No matter the many instruments we have in our toolbox, it is the unique essence of the person is what makes it all work!?



Must Read