There are No Shortcuts to Leadership

[May 30, 2018]  In a fast-paced society everyone is looking to save time and money.  We are all interested when someone comes up with a “hack” or shortcut to save us that little extra effort.  But, leaders have learned over the history of humankind, that there are no shortcuts to leadership.

Someone once likened leadership to herding cats.1  Leadership is a difficult activity, involves many different skills and talents, and the outcome is often uncertain.  One thing we do know about leadership is that it is difficult and it doesn’t come naturally.

“If you take shortcuts, you get cut short.” – Gary Busey, American actor

Like success, there is no shortcut to leadership in any profession or personal relationship.  Building trust and confidence in others is a task that should never be taken lightly and it takes time and effort.  I was not successful when I first went to college.  My grades as an engineering student were pretty pathetic.  The reason was that I lacked the discipline to study and do it wisely.

There is no way around the fact that it takes hard work to be a good leader.  There are never any shortcuts and anyone saying otherwise is simply wrong.  This is a common but incorrect view of leadership because the risks associated with shortcuts are overlooked.  It is the hard work that makes risk-taking possible.  You cannot have one without the other.

If you put in this kind of hard work and take calculated risks, your chances of being a good leader are greatly improved.  I learned from the shame I felt in making poor grades that something had to be done to improve my chances of success in college.  This meant setting my priorities right and intensely focusing on my “job” as a student.  Missing a class was never an option and putting off studying or failing to work on assigned projects was never going to happen again.

Leadership is like that.  You can’t hack leadership.  Maybe it’s just an old-fashioned idea that is impervious to change.  Or, maybe leadership is something that is intangible.  Actually, I don’t think so but others have made this argument to why there are no shortcuts.

Successful leaders know that only through discipline can a leader accomplish tasks and missions worth doing.  They know that shortcuts create unreasonable risks that should never be taken.  And, great leaders know that hard work and good character is at the center of leadership that works.


  1. A similar phrase, allegedly of Irish origins, is “Minding mice at a crossroads”.
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.

36 thoughts on “There are No Shortcuts to Leadership

    1. Watson Bell

      “Trusting in a quick fix,” is my favorite. Thanks.

  1. Wilson Cox

    I too was drinking my morning coffee when I first read this post by Gen Satterfield. I reread it this afternoon and found a couple extra gems in it that I’d overlooked. The quote by Gary Busey was particularly appropriate and by a young man at that. He is certainly mature for being an actor in Hollywood.

  2. Greg Heyman

    Sadly, many people think that being a good leader is simply by having the authority to exercise it. They are wrong, very wrong. I’ve seen it personally when people occupy a leadership position and they are now “instant” leaders that can do everything right (in their own minds). There are truly, no shortcuts to leadership. Shortcut leaders are a problem and will forever be a problem.

    1. Doug Smith

      I too have my share of bad bosses. One of my favorite movies is “9 to 5” with Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda. Too bad Fonda is in it although her acting was marginally acceptable. Regardless, the premise that bad bosses are bad for business, its those who take shortcuts, just like in this movie.

  3. Joe Omerrod

    In the medical community, shortcuts with patients are strictly forbidden and for clear, obvious reasons. Death can occur easily enough. Shortcuts are simply too risky except under the most extreme circumstances.

  4. Yusaf from Texas

    Regardless of where you are from, how much experience you have, or your leadership position, the advice here that there are no leadership shortcuts should resonate. Thanks for another great posting.

  5. Edward Kennedy III

    I’m a regular reader and fan of this leader website because of the clean format and relevant topics. Keep ’em comin, Gen Satterfield.

  6. Ronny Fisher

    I know this blog is for everyone but I would have thought this is rather obvious. Thanks for bringing it up for those junior leaders in our mist.

  7. Jung Hoon Kim

    I believe that leadership is required from skills and wisdom. None are gained by cutting it short.

  8. Andrew Dooley

    It’s hard to draw any other conclusion from the experience of those who have come before us, is that any attempt at a shortcut to leadership skills will result in failure at some point. Remember that and you will do well.

  9. Bryan Lee

    In the military and other first-responder organizations, shortcuts are a common topic of conversation. Shortcuts bring high risk and often unacceptable risks that should never be attempted. Good leadership means identifying them and communicating the issues associated with them.

  10. Billy Kenningston

    Good comments today and a very needed topic of discussion. Thanks.

    1. Tony B. Custer

      I too agree and hope to see more from those who take the time to make them.

  11. Dennis Mathes

    Thanks everyone for sharing some of your stories about how shortcuts were problematic in your jobs/careers. The same applies to our family and friends. If you shortcut one of them, they will notice and probably tell you about it and that they see it as disrespect.

  12. Darryl Sitterly

    As I was drinking my morning coffee and reading your leadership blog, I was thinking back to when I was a new team leader at a large company out of New York City. We had lots of young people on the team but the senior team leader was an older gentleman who made it clear to us that shortcuts were unacceptable and that if he caught us trying to shortcut company processes to obtain customers, then he would have a “discussion” with us behind closed doors. He recognized that shortcuts to leadership did not work.

  13. Roger Yellowmule

    I am a fan of Gen Satterfield and his commonsense approach to good leadership. The tribal elders I work with know that leadership takes time, energy, and spiritual guidance. There is nothing fast about it.

  14. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Another good article on a subject matter dear to my heart. No Shortcuts! I’ve been preaching (actually mentoring) young boys for a long time. This is one of those things that they are slow to get. Most actually don’t believe me when I say there are some things that cannot be hacked. But I still try!

  15. Janna Faulkner

    Thanks Georgie for giving us some links to research more on this topic. I think that most of us here reading are pretty familiar with the concept and happy that it is brought up in this fashion. I would hope that more junior leaders are on this website. They could possibly gain so much.

  16. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Improvement that is methodical and focused is what makes us better. Yes, there are no “hacks” or shortcuts to make it so because it involves being human.

  17. Max Foster

    A very good article today on a very relevant topic of conversation among leaders who want to improve upon their skills and “character.” I’ve found that those who take deliberate, thoughtful action to improve themselves as a person and as a leader are the ones that do best and become the greatest leaders.

  18. Lynn Pitts

    … and few people will believe this fact. Having been in various leadership positions in my career, I have to reinforce what you have to say. It is so true. Thanks.

    1. Georgie M.

      Thank you for your service and sage advice.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      Thank you Georgie for your confidence.

  19. Army Captain

    Gen Satterfield, you said it well. There are simply no shortcuts to learning the skills needed and developing the character required to be a good leader.

    1. Wilson Cox

      Thanks for your service Army Captain and your daily dose of great comments.

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