Leadership Isn’t About Checking Boxes

Leadership Isn’t About Checking Boxes

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth 

Today’s post is a short rant, but one every leader should take to heart – STOP CHECKING BOXES. To believe leadership can be reduced to task management is simply flawed thinking. Here’s the thing – you can manage to a list, but you certainly cannot lead to a list.  A check the box approach to leadership accomplishes only one thing – it limits your ability to lead.

Leadership isn’t about checking boxes. Great leadership thrives beyond typical borders and constraints – it lives outside the norm. Leadership requires more than just going through the motions. Real leaders reshape, reinvent, or remove boxes, but they refuse to simply check them.

True leadership doesn’t reveal itself by meeting expectations; it shows itself by exceeding them. Leadership looks past the obvious, beyond the optics, and it embraces the challenge of seeking the extraordinary.  Leadership is demonstrated by having the courage to do more than just go through the motions.

Think about it like this – do you want to be a leader who simply does what’s expected, or do you want to be a leader who makes what if a reality? Let me say this as simply as I can: Leaders don’t settle – they move forward. They innately stretch themselves, as well as those they lead. The best leaders don’t have a maintenance mindset. They focus their efforts on discovery, creation, improvement, disruption, and growth.

Think of the best leader you know; now think of the best leaders throughout history – did any of the leaders who came to mind make an impact by just checking the box? The next time you’re tempted to check a box, consider asking yourself the following questions: Is this the best I can do? Am I leading or am I settling? Are those whom I lead better off as a result of this decision? Checking a box is an easy thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do – it doesn’t make you a leader.


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    September 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Hi Mike,
    Good post. I’ve been asking myself recently why it is that so many of the administrators I know make such abysmal leaders. I think at least one reason is that their minds are confined by the idea that, unless something’s measurable, it’s unimportant and irrelevant. For example, the impact decisions may have on employee morale and the ripple effect on customer service and satisfaction — and future sales — is never incorporated into a spreadsheet; but the very real impact is anticipated by the discerning eye of a true leader.


      Mike Myatt

      September 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      Spot on Ron – most leaders absolutely measure the wrong things, and while doing so, they forget job #1 is to lead.



    September 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    For me, the following sums up what leadership is about:
    “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.” (http://goodthoughts.co.uk/thought/837/work) I changed myself to try and lead my own team at work this way. The result was phenomenal! A sudden and marked transformation in my colleague’s attitude towards me for the better. It is hardly surprising that by making people feel valuable in themselves, I added value to myself. I highly recommend this strategy!


    Charles Driggers

    September 18, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    True leaders follow a lonely and disruptive path. There are moments when the words of others resonate to provide encourage to march on. Your words did this for me tonight. I appreciate the encouragement offered by you tonight. Thanks Mike.


    Tanveer Naseer

    September 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Another solid post, Mike. A good reminder for leaders that it’s not about what you need to get done, but about how you empower those you lead to achieve what’s necessary for your organization to thrive.


    Ben Drake

    September 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Or create a checklist that stretches your comfort zone. Ben Franklin did this with his self improvement checklist. I agree that goals often limit our ability to move beyond. Getting fit for a vacation is great, but gaining it all back a week later is not. But what if my box says find two ways to put yourself out there today? Or positively impact someone, pay it forward? Those checked boxes might help develop good habits I don’t currently have.


    Scott Mackes

    September 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Amen Mike. People naturally follow those who take a stand and make a difference. I’m so tired of being associated with those who check the boxes and stand for the status quo. Thanks for the inspiration.


    Barbara Mckinney

    October 17, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    @mikemyatt:disqus . Thanks for sharing indeed a great awakening for all the leaders out there. Good leaders must always desire for EXCELLENCE.

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