Are You In a Leadership Rut or Routine?

Leadership Rut or Routine?

Are you in a Leadership Rut or Routine? Ruts and routines are not the same, but they can both be helpful in Leadership.

We all get in them, that state of functioning when action happens, but engagement is missing. Some call it a rut others a routine.

In my opinion routines are fabulous and ruts are devastating.

Stuck in a Rut

Getting stuck in a rut.. it can happen to anyone. They have happened to me. They have even happened to me at the best of times.

Routine DadI am busy doing my life and the repetitive nature of some of the actions of my life slowly grips me in its clasp and I find myself unengaged.

The same old work, followed by the same old repetitions of kids and dinner and TV and sleep.

Nothing to look forward to, nothing to be excited about and nothing out of the ordinary.

In fact, when something out of the ordinary does occur, it is usually not what I like or planned; it just irritates me. I feel stuck. Like a victim to the circumstances of my life. I feel somewhat powerless to change the outcome, so I mentally check out, while doing the repetitions – hoping to find and intellectual escape in my mind.

Rut’s are cursed with sameness.

The same repeated actions, the same feelings, the usual events on the same days of the week and the same uninspiring outcomes. Sameness coats a rut like a slippery lubricant, preventing anyone from climbing out and perpetuating the sameness. It is mind-numbing to the soul and devastating to passion.

The Routine Machine

The irony of a routine is that to the untrained eye – it can look just like a rut. Very similar actions, with very similar time intervals and repetitions.  The huge qualifying difference though, is engagement.

In a routine my heart and passion is actively engaged.

Perhaps not even on the task at hand, but engaged in some aspect of my life, none-the-less.

I like routines, because they allow me to be productive with my action (without missing an essential step) while my mind is elsewhere planning or dreaming on a new project or problem. The safety of a routine is that I have it down pat so well, that I can afford to let my mind wander onto other more enjoyable or stimulating things.

If I let my mind wander in the middle of an activity, without the power of an established routine, I could easily leave out a step, forget something or make a mess. But, with the safety of a routine in place I can allow the action to take place, knowing that while my mind is on others things, I can be productive.

This freedom to mentally engage in other things while executing, keeps my heart/passions engaged and my actions effectively productive.

So what about Leadership?

If you find yourself in a spot like that, the key is not to change the repetitions of your life (although sometimes that does help,) but to focus on getting your engagement back.

Do what you have to to re-ignite the passion in your soul and the fire in your eyes.

When it comes to re-igniting one’s passion, I strongly endorse any action that doesn’t hurt people and which lines up with WHO you are, i.e your identity. For example, I am a learner by nature. It energizes me to learn about new things that are in areas of interest for me. Going to a conference about the things I am interested in, always inspires me and helps to get some fire back.

On the other hand, leaders should make shameless use of the power of routines to facilitate productivity. Routines allow action to occur and engagement to be maintained. They ensure accuracy in the action and yet make place for other engagements.

BUT… Be careful not to mandate a particular path of action as you encourage routines. I understand that the specified path of action gives you some sense of confidence that the outcome will be achieved, but by doing so you could eliminate any sense of autonomy your employees have in that routine and it will quickly become a rut.

Both ruts and routines can be helpful in Leadership and if you are not sure which one you are in, just ask your co-workers.

Two questions then…

  1. Are you in a rut or a routine?
  2. What action, centered around your identity, energizes you and can restore some engagement in your life?


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Allan Kelsey
Allan Kelsey
 is  Managing Director of Leading Leadersin Keller, TX
He helps clients create Dramatically Improved Performance and Life Satisfaction

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On Leadership, Art, and Creativity

Leadership… with art and creativity?

Can leadership be art? What does creativity have to do with this equation?

Creativity fits into art, but where does creativity fit into leadership? Have you ever experienced leadership in such a way that impacts you like art can? Combining the topics of leadership with art and creativity is like mixing oils with water for some. But are these topics really strange bedfellows? Or are they a match made in heaven?

A Mixed Bag?

Do you think about these topics playing nicely together in the same sandbox? Or do you tend to think of leadership in terms of structured strategic execution living alone in isolation away from art and creativity? Or would that type of left-brained operational understanding be more of a “management” thing and not in the realm of a modern understanding of leadership?

These are not questions we ask every day, but these types of questions show an interesting discovery about a few critical components of leadership.

Read on because the combination of art and creativity in roles of leaders may actually surprise and inspire you to think differently about your leadership and that of others around you!


ART - The What

Art is everywhere and the definition of it is broadening by the minute. The traditional forms of art like , sculpture, signing, drama, drawing, poetry and writing exist all around us and are easy to identify . The more modern versions of art are spin-offs of the classics. These would be things like acting in and making movies, TV, Internet, or in designs for brands, products and services.

The modern platforms have broadened the canvass upon which artists can now create, but hidden within all the mediums and all the forms of art is a central theme that seems to endure time and technological advancement; it is the moment.

The moment is what artists of every persuasion, press to contain, present, leverage and expose. The more successfully an artist can portray a moment to the audience, the more powerful the artist is. Moments have power. They move us emotionally and they draw us in.

One artist put it like this:

Art is Communication. ~ James Howell

Glance at a painting that captures a moment in a way that is relevant to you and all the other art becomes insignificant until you finish experiencing the moment that painting has captured for you. You become fully engaged in the moment. You simply get lost in it. It could be about yesterday; it could be about tomorrow – but it has your full attention and it compels us to remain until the emotion and the experience loosen their grip enough for reality to intrude.

Art is the ability to define or express a moment with such clarity, interpretation and conviction that it draws you in. Art is “the what.”



Creativity is essentially how the artists compels us. What she/he compels us with is a choice of medium, story and moment. How the artist compels us is a matter of creativity. In fact it could be said that without creativity, the moment is just an historic freeze-frame.

A black & white portrayal of a moment devoid of any emotional attachment or experience, lacking all artistic portrayal and story telling. It would be devoid of any compulsion and lacking the ability to engage.

It is creativity that chooses this angle over that angle, this color over that color, this texture over that texture. In short it is very intentional. In the mind of the artist, creativity is the means through which the viewer will be moved. It is the tool that is used to bring the moment to life and without the moment, there is no art.

Creativity is the way the artist chooses to connect with the viewer.

See this brand new report on what a IBM report says is the number one global concern for leaders today: Creativity



I think leadership essentially surrounds the concepts of who.

Just as in art, if you remove the moment or the creativity, you no longer have art. In leadership if you remove the people, you no longer have leadership. Since leadership is all about the people and art and creativity is also for people, perhaps leadership can learn from art?

Could leadership need a ‘moment’, just like art does?

I would say YES. Artistic moments are finite, measurable in time and space, emotional, and full of impact. Leadership is that which facilitates a finite, measurable and impactful event. If it is emotional along the way, then it further engages those involved and compels them to more of the same, increasing commitment and alignment.

Wrapping it Together

Artists go to great lengths to portray a moment with staggering clarity, so there is no confusion (to the viewer) about the moment.

Leaders can do the same in their leadership by bringing focused clarity (to the team) so that there is no confusion about what moment is being pursued.

What about creativity? Some would say it has a better leadership fit than a moment, yet as leaders, I don’t think we pay as much attention to this component. The secret behind leadership creativity, or ‘how’ you lead, is the intention.
Artists press viewers to go a certain way by their creativity. They intentionally choose one shade of red over another, because it serve their intentional purpose of getting the viewer where they want them to go.

Leaders should use the same focused intention as creative artists do when leading a team toward an outcome.

That means leaders must know all they can about all the colors of the palette in front of them. In other words, leaders must be very familiar with the circumstances of their surroundings. All the forces at play at any given time, pull in one direction or another. Choosing a particular shade of red, or in leadership terms, choosing one particular path over another, must be done because it leads somewhere on purpose.

Don’t ever lead by default or convenience, you will not find emotional engagement there.

As it turns out, leaders and artists have much in common. They are both pushing toward a clear moment. They both use creativity to specifically draw the people they are engaging to that moment. And in both cases, the recipient of all the effort is people!

So how are you doing at looking carefully at your leadership? Are you involving creative aspects of to increase your level of influence with those around you? Are you thinking with your right-brain to look for stimulating NEW ways of doing things. Or are you stuck in a creative/artistic rut that needs that help of others to increase your leadership dynamics? I’d love to hear you thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Allan Kelsey
Allan Kelsey
is  Managing Director of Leading Leaders in Keller, TX
He helps clients create Dramatically Improved Performance and Life Satisfaction

Email | LinkedIn | TwitterWeb

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What Leadership DOES, is not What it IS

How do you define leadership?

Many people think that the topic ofleadership” is contained exclusively within the behavior patterns of the people that they have seen in positions of leadership. They have nothing else with which to compare it. This is certainly understandable, but it misses the big picture of the topic. The actions that leaders display, are not necessarily what Leadership is. Leadership, as a concept, is much larger than that.

I think the best way to unpack this phenomenon is to use another sticky subject; LOVE. It can be said that what love does, is not what it is.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Love and the concept of being ‘in love’ is a universally accepted condition that is evident in every culture. Within distinct cultures, the expression of love varies. It is defined by the action of what love does. Those actions of love on display broadcast a signal of love clear to all who see. For example, I love my wife Stephanie. I enjoy spending time with her and I especially enjoy experiencing new beautiful places with her. So occasionally we travel to a new place to see its beauty together for the first time.It gives us so much to talk about and it becomes a shared memory of beauty and wonderful conversation. We are in love. It is what lovers do. Or is it?

I have friends who are in love too (just like we are.) A case could be made for the idea that my friends should behave like my wife and I do, because they have the same condition we have. They are in love. Therefore they too should enjoy experiencing new beautiful places together. Truth is though, they don’t. Does that mean that they are not in love? Not at all. It just means that what love does, is not what it is. What love does in their relationship, is to ride roller-coasters together. Go figure?!?!

I think this is especially true in Leadership. What Leadership does, is not what it is. As leaders though, the trap we often fall into is to assign what leadership does, to what it is, because we feel the burden of being able to train others into it, and we need to point to it to teach about it. It could be said therefore, that Leadership is a condition that reveals itself in an infinite number of ways in response to an infinite number of circumstances.

In the end, those of us who lead in leadership seek to understand Leadership all the more so that we can more successfully teach about it and convey it to others. So we look for it continually. And when we find it, we place a magnifying glass over the example of leadership (what we’ll call here “(X)”) and point to it, so that we can all learn and improve.

This is helpful and educational, but it also has a negative connotation. It leads people to understand (as unintentional as it may be), that particular action (X) – is what Leadership does. Our inherent ‘formula/solution’ perspective then creates a new Leadership formula that shows: (X) action = Leadership. When in reality (X) is simply riding a roller-coaster, something I want nothing to do with and which doesn’t work in my world.

I absolutely concede that the actions of leaders, teach us something about their leadership. They reveal aspects of their craft and we can learn from those actions, but Leadership is more than replicating another’s action. Otherwise I should be able to express love to Stephanie on a roller-coaster ride. But do you really think this would translate to love to her? Each circumstance requires uniquely applicable solutions.

What becomes paramount in the concepts of leadership we portray to others then, is not just the action (X), but the context of the action and the motivation or intent of the leader in the action(X). These three elements combined, answer not only the action question, but why that action is appropriate and how it is applicable in those circumstances i.e the context of the situation.

Successful Successions

Attempting to address all three of these concepts when leading leaders, is a strong way to train your style of leadership. Or said another way, to transfer a leadership culture. This becomes especially important when developing a successor. Most exiting leaders not only want competence in their stead, but they also want some confidence that the ‘way we do business‘ will remain. The only way for that to happen when the originator exits the business culture is to infuse into the culture the principles for which they stand. This implies that the new decision makers must know which action (X) to choose, in any given circumstance and follow a prescribed intent or motivation.

I would submit that the three elements of action, context and motivation, come closer to describing what Leadership is than simply telling what Leadership does.

Do you agree? What do you think describes leadership? What have you seen that sticks out in your mind as an excellent example of what leadership is? I would love to get your feedback!

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Allan Kelsey is  Managing Director of Leading Leaders in Keller, TX
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When A Leader Goes ‘Rogue’

Lets face it, in order for any of us to grow or duplicate our services, products or offerings we will have to work with, train and empower people.

While the organization is small and relational interaction is close and transparent, accountability seems more organic and the likelihood of a rogue leader is low. But expansion and multiplication demands more leaders with more power and when a leader goes rogue; displaying unwanted behavior or heading in the wrong direction – it is time to step in.

What is a Rogue Leader?

I suppose this definition could be as wide as any potential offense that exists, but in general it is when a person of influence begins to cause others to follow them away from the originally agreed ideal. Or when a leader begins to steer the application of the goods or services being sold, in a way not endorsed by the company ideals. It is a departure from the intent of the original focus or the intent of the originator. Sometimes the behavior of a rogue leader is blatant and visible, sometimes it is subtle and subversive. Sometimes their ‘rogue-ness’ is defined more by what they are not doing, than by what they are doing.

However you define it or identify it, rogue leadership is usually not constructive.

As misguided as rogue leadership can be, the concept of blame has to be carefully considered, because if the original idea or method is vague or unclear, then the ‘rogue’ leader may not be entirely to blame. As leaders we should ask ourselves; “Is he going rogue because of his own intentions or is he simply unclear about the direction we want to go, and just doing the best with what he has?”

Where is the harm?

Rogue leadership is destructive because it portrays an imbalance of power, it dilutes or even derails the corporate vision and it breaks alignment.


When a rogue leader goes unchecked, the indirect message being sent to the organization is that kind of behavior is acceptable generally, and specifically his kind of behavior is not worthy of correction. It is tacit approval. So if you don’t endorse what that leader is doing, then say so and do something about it. Not doing something about it gives him more power to continue. Also, the longer it is permitted to continue, the more the rest of the organization adopts that as standard practice.


Allowing a rogue leader to progress without correction results in a diluted corporate vision. Think about it, if a leader is permitted to lead his division down a road that is not part of the intention for the division, if it doesn’t support the overall vision of the organization, then he is allowed to dilute the vision. We now have multiple agenda’s being pursued, yet under one name. Depending on how much power he has, he could completely derail the vision and intent of the organization and not addressing that action is an unspoken form of endorsement. By not doing anything about it, you are quietly agreeing with his vision. So ask yourself…do you agree with what is happening? If not, are your actions displaying that?


Rogue leadership breaks alignment. Allowing unwanted direction to be pursued (unchecked) effectively breaks the alignment that has been so instrumental in the corporate creativity that has gotten you this far. Alignment is critical, because it is unity. It is team work. It is the idea that we are all pulling in the same direction. That cannot be accomplished with one leader running off in one direction, while the rest of the team is pulling in another. Rogue leadership breaks alignment and undoes the power of joint effort toward a goal.

Act Swiftly and Decisively

Correcting rogue leadership could go in many different directions, but these are the central elements that will likely be in all versions:

▪    Act swiftly. Don’t procrastinate. The longer you leave the issue ‘as is’ the more the organization thinks the changed direction is OK. If it is not, do something about it.
▪    Be decisive. Either the rogue leader’s direction and behavior is helpful or hurtful to the organization but it cannot be neutral. Decide what it is by comparing it to the vision and respond accordingly.
▪    Be clear. If the leader’s actions are considered rogue by feel and not by definition, then you are are powerless. Only when you can point to where action is acceptable and not acceptable by comparison to vision or stated ideals, can you correct that action. Without clear definitions for direction and methods for achieving that direction, you have no map. Without a map you will never know if you are on course or off course and worse yet – neither will your people. Your ability to correct will depend directly on the clarity of your vision and ideals.
▪   Repeat. The classic response from a confronted rogue leader is usually something like: “Well, I  didn’t know that is what you wanted.” Not only does your vision have to be clear and understandable, but it has to be adopted by everyone. Modern leadership guru’s like John Maxwell and Stephen Covey say you should cast vision repeatedly. Not annually, not even monthly but weekly. That kind of repetition forces you to have to be clear and prevents anyone in the organization from saying…I didn’t know!

Two Questions then:

  1. Do you have a rogue leader in your organization?
  2. Is their behavior a reflection of their agenda or your clarity?

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Allan Kelsey
is  Managing Director of Leading Leaders in Keller, TX
He helps clients create Dramatically Improved Performance and Life Satisfaction

Email | LinkedIn | Web

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