The Ultimate Measure of Leadership (Part 4 of 6)

KWS concert 2013


  1. Lives Values
  2. Empowers Others
  3. Asks for feedback, ideas, comments
  4. Directs the Course
  5. Effectively Communicates
  6. Responds

As I was thinking about my blog topic today, I immediately started to think about the TV show  The Deadliest Catch.  In case you have never seen this show,  camera crews are on commercial fishing (crab) boats on the Bering Sea as the captain and crew of various boats face the challenges of getting the highest crab count possible to make their quota during the  commercial crab season.  As I thought about the show and how the captain of the boat was always at the wheel, checking the navigation equipment and the weather, ensuring the boat continued to stay headed in the right direction,  I thought to myself, “self,  that is kind of lame example for this blog – of course the captain of a boat would be directing the course...”

Another image popped into my mind, one that some may not think immediately of as an example of someone who I believe was leading and directing the course at a concert I attended the other night.  No,  it wasn’t a conductor ( the band was what one would consider more of a blues type band).  No, it wasn’t the lead singer (though he was incredibly talented) and no, it wasn’t the lead guitarist who the band was named for.  The leader of this band was the woman with the knit cream-colored beret on her head standing off to the side, behind the stage.

Why was she the leader and how did she direct the course?  She sat behind the scenes watching every little thing that was ongoing on the stage.  When the lead singer’s microphone made an unusual sound, she jumped up and quickly moved to the side of the stage immediately directing the guy handling the sound board to make some adjustments and then she stood silently and listened.  After pointing to the sound guy and to the stage one more time, she again stood silently by and listened deeply.  She never left that post until she was assured that the lead singer’s sound was perfect and that she confirmed it when the lead singer caught her eye and nodded in the affirmative.

A few minutes later, this gal was back at her usual post, to the rear left side of the stage, perched on her stool, watching intently as the music flowed from the various  musicians on the stage.  She kept her eye on the timing and made sure the guy who was seated by her was ready with a new guitar at exactly the right time the lead guitarist was looking for the switch.  It all occurred seamlessly and if one was not really looking, those little details would have been lost to the outside eye looking in.

At the end of the show,  the band members were ushered by this woman out the back door into a waiting van.  As a line of people quickly followed them out trying to get an autograph from the lead guitarist or the lead singer.  The woman who I consider the true leader, stood in front of the open van door, partially blocking fans from getting too close to the lead guitarist.  She took the photos or CD’s one by one and handed them to the guitarist for an autograph – all like a smooth running assembly line.  She hardly said a word and didn’t need to.  Her actions clearly directed the course on how this concert was going to be run so that everyone got what they needed from the evening.  The band played incredibly well, the crowd was on their feet in standing ovation several times during the night, those of us who wanted an autograph were quickly accommodated and the night ended with wonderful memories in our minds and beautiful music in our heads.

This road manager, stage manager or whatever her official title would be for the band was the true leader.  She did not have to be center attention on the stage but needed to be where she could see the bigger picture of what was going on with the band.  She was always at the wheel, keeping her eye on the navigation equipment (lights, sound and equipment) and monitoring the weather (the crowd) all the while moving her boat (the band) quickly to stay on course even when there were a few small ripples that could have created a less than stellar performance.

As a leader, it is important to be careful to not try to steal the show from the true stars who are up  on stage, giving their best performance (the employees).  Directing the course, making sure the vision stays up front and center in everyone’s line of sight is what is most important.  Sometimes that will be done from behind the scenes (working out business plan and strategies),  sometimes it will be off to the side (while others in the organization are up on the stage) and other times it is necessary to usher your staff through the door of change while continuing to protect them from potential outside distractions.

Thank you for reading this post, it was a bit more difficult to write because we just lost a dear friend to heart disease (at the tender age of 46).  He was one of our group who was going to watch this concert with us the other night but died two days before.  This blog post is in memory of Todd – thank you for some incredible memories my friend!

Do you believe Leaders always have to be at the front and center of the organization to effectively lead?

I would love to hear some examples of what you have witnessed where the leader is quietly leading and directing versus being the public persona that we often view as the leader of an organization.  Please share if you have a story or example!

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