The Actions of Leadership Series, #12: Step Out & Lead

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 19, Issue No. 1b
May 15, 2020

By Dan Coughlin


This is the 12th and final issue in The Actions of Leadership Series.

This is one for the long term. Leadership is hard. Leading people toward any purpose is a complicated journey. Stepping out over and over and over with different individuals and different groups on different journeys is the making of a life’s work and a life’s legacy.

Here are the previous 11 steps

  1. Clarify the quest.
  2. Build the fellowship of the quest.
  3. Talk about big dreams and small details every day.
  4. Meet situations as they arise.
  5. Reinvigorate yourself regularly.
  6. The Downside of Success and the Upside of Boundaries
  7. Balance the opposites.
  8. Feed emotional needs.
  9. Look ahead and remove obstacles.
  10. Influence people to stay on the path.
  11. Synthesize ideas.

As you can see, reading it is easy and doing it is a massive challenge.

Leadership, as Doris Kearns Goodwin explains so beautifully in her great book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, begins with a burning ambition to achieve something great for people way beyond yourself. Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Oprah Winfrey all had a burning ambition to make the world better for other people.

Then you build a fellowship of people who want to help fulfill that purpose. Leadership is not accomplished on your own by sitting and thinking and never sharing your thoughts with anyone else. To influence people, you need to step out and communicate your ambition to others. As you do this, talk about the big dream, not the tiniest impact.

As situations pop up on your journey, deal with each one of them. Keep moving forward toward the fulfillment of your ambition. Work with others along the way to fulfill your quest.

Stay fresh. Feed your energy. Get reinvigorated. Don’t let a short-term success derail you. Stay focused within clear boundaries. Talk big picture and execute little details every day.

Take care of yourself emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, and financially. By taking care of yourself, you will have more value to offer to other people. Your leadership will become more effective.

Work today, but always think about tomorrow. What can get in the way of you fulfilling your ambition? And since you can’t predict every obstacle, keep working to be better prepared no matter what pops up. Stay calm and resolute. Prepare for obstacles ahead of time, and deal with those you can’t prepare for as they happen.

As others begin to lose interest and stray off the path of fulfilling that quest, and they always will, be like a magnet that reminds people of the importance of this particular quest, and guide them back to the path.

Always listen to ideas and help people combine ideas to make even better ideas.


Study any great leader and the quest he or she went on. The DNA of leadership is in each individual journey to fulfill a meaningful ambition.

These aren’t leadership secrets. They are right out in the open for everyone to uncover. The great challenge of leadership is not in knowing these steps. The great challenge is for you to step out and lead over and over and over again.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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