Real Leaders Don’t Blame Their Tools

By | November 3, 2017

[November 3, 2017]  At I have a short series that identifies “tools” – usually established by other leaders – that help real leaders be better at what they do and work more efficiently and effectively (see a few list in the notes section).  Leaders carry various items in their toolbox that are designed with care and tested through experience.

“Great leaders don’t blame the tools they are given.  They work to sharpen them.” – Simon Sinek, British-American author and motivational speaker

Yet, these tools are far from perfect and, in fact, are sometimes used inappropriately with exactly the opposite effect they are designed for.  On the surface the use of investigations to discover why a problem occurred but it is actually intended to personally harm others.  Investigations are good except when they are designed to cast dispersions upon others; a common political tactic to harm an opponent.

Not unlike the police who use tools to track down criminals, leaders use tools to do good.  Also like the police, leaders continue to improve upon those tools in order to make them both better and less likely to be used in an unsavory way.  During my time in the U.S. Army, there were several versions of officer evaluations reports; significant advancements have been made that go directly to identifying the current performance and future capability.

I’ve always been interested in leader tools, how to make them better, and how to make them easier to use.  Several large organizations do this as a matter of business; for example, the Missouri Pacific Railroad (now part of the Santa Fe RR), the U.S. Army, and Delta Airlines.  Others simply use the tools designed by others and that is both okay and smart.  But, many use no leadership tools whatsoever.

The best way to make these tools more effective is to train leaders in their use.  Other methods to improve them are to create tool-feedback, appoint a key leader in charge of that tool, provide technical support for the tool, and do periodic reviews.  That way, it shows everyone the value of any particular leadership tool and that senior management has an investment in its use.

Leaders should not underestimate what proven tools can do but also they should recognize them for what they really are … simply tools.  Complaining about those tools or blaming them for our failures is immature, irrational, and will certainly diminish a leader’s credibility.

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Notes: here are a sampling of items in the leadership toolbox …


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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