Leaders are Biased for Action

By | April 7, 2017

[April 7, 2017]  Leaders get things done; they are doers and “get ‘er done” is their motto.  There is a predisposition to action that real leaders have to overcome any obstacle or issue that warrants their attention.  We reward leaders for it and drive it into their whole being.  This bias is the fundamental element found across all leaders regardless of style, culture, or level of leadership.

Action leaders know they lead the way.1  And this means leading on important issues; a focus on what’s relevant and important; including mission execution and taking care of people.  Seeking out opportunities to lead on trivialities or minor issues does not make for a good example and to those who might otherwise deserve our respect and admirations (see the PowerLine Blog post on how a U.S. Senator fails this very test; link here).

This bias for action can come at a cost.  It puts a leader out front and center where they are seen and heard by all (we call this moral courage).  Sometimes it means taking an unpopular stand, or what may be seen as immoral, or even dangerous position.  Other times the bias for action pushes a leader to act when inaction, in the short-term anyway, may be the better strategy (sometimes called the indirect approach).

During the Winter of World War II the Allies were in defensive positions in central Europe awaiting the Spring offensive when the German Nazi military unexpectedly attacked.  General George S. Patton was a soldier of action.  When he heard about the German offensive he was able to turn his 3rd U.S. Army to sweep into the flanks of Germans and ultimately halt their drive.  This is what bias for action means; Patton was ready.

Patton never believed in defensive operations; his belief was that the only way to win WWII was through constant attacks on the German military.  “Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more,” is what he would tell his commanders.  He got things done and his passion for it was a major reason the war was won.

Being a person of action is not easy and it comes with risks but for those who are willing to take up the effort to make things happen, they will be among the best leaders.  People respect and admire such leaders.  Such a lesson needs to be reinforced repeatedly to remind all of us that this is how things get done throughout human history.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.