Are you ready to lead?

Blog post by Anthony Landale

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Anthony Landale delivers FED leadership workshops to GCS. Here he reminds us that we can all spend more time leading.

It’s amazing how many people feel they aren’t leaders at work. They tell us they are too junior in their departments, that they don’t have the qualifications or even that they need some sort of special personal quality to lead. And yet these same people, outside of work, are fully responsible and know exactly what it takes to make big decisions and take initiative.

So what’s going on? Is it possible that people are making leadership far more complicated than it needs to be?

The comfort of Operator and Manager modes

One useful way of looking at the business of leading is to think of the modes we go into at work and how much time we spend in what we call our Operator and Manager modes. Modes are all about our automatic behaviour, our attitudes and even our mindset and they determine the way we show up. Let me explain.

In Operator mode we know what we have got to do and we get on with it. We often don’t have to think because the task we’ve been given is clear. It’s in our job spec. It’s defined. It includes processes that we have to follow and deadlines we have to meet. And although we may complain that it’s a bit uncreative the reality is that in this mode life is rather comfortable. We complete our activities and we tick things off our list. We may be uninspired but nobody can criticise us because we are doing exactly what we are told.

In Manager mode we have our own list of tasks to do and on top of this we spend our time making sure everyone on the team is on schedule. We organise. We delegate. We control. In this mode we are focussing on resources, deadlines and projects. We are super busy and also doing exactly what other people have told us are the priorities.

It’s different in Leader mode

When we are in Leader mode, however, it’s different.

In Leader mode we have a different focus. Why are we doing things the way we do? Could they be improved? Could we add more value? What are we really trying to pull off?

It can feel very exciting and we can be very inspired when we are in Leader mode but there are more risks. Nobody is telling us what to do; it’s down to us. We are out in front doing what we think is right. And there are no guarantees.

It can be helpful to think about your own working life here. How much time do you spend in Operator and Manager mode? What is it like for you when you are in these modes? And where do you need to step into Leader mode because in any other mode it’s just too slow waiting for other people to tell you what to do?

The truth is that there are far more opportunities to lead at work than you think. It might take courage to step up. You might need to be more vocal or even take a risk. But it’s in Leader mode that you really start to make a difference.

Anthony Landale runs the Future Engage Deliver masterclass for GCS. Find out more at

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