3 Things Leaders Do

I’m currently reading Geoff Smart’s new book Leadocracy. Smart’s thesis is that government’s, particular local and state governments, suffer from a lack of well-trained, private sector-experience leaders. His aim is to start a movement that encourages such leaders to enter government. While it’s light on research or advice for leaders, the book does present an interesting framework that Smart calls the “The As of Leading.” He argues that all leaders are called upon to do three things:

Analyzing–Figuring out what outcomes are desired and how to achieve them.

Allocating–Establishing a plan to concentrate scarce resources, like money, time, and people, toward their highest and best uses, and away from areas of waste.

Aligning–Influencing people to behave in a coordinated way, accordingly to the plan, to achieve the desired outcome.” (Smart, 2012, p. 38)

I’ve been ruminating over this framework for a few days now and I really like it. We have a variety of models, frameworks and acronyms for leadership. However, most tend to over-emphasize the role of influence and underemphasize the importance of analysis and resource allocation. Many downgrade such activities as “management” but they do so at their peril. Smart’s three “As” balance out the vital functions of leadership in a clear, but concise manner.

What do you think? Does this framework leave anything out?

David Burkus is the editor of LDRLB. He writes, speaks, and serves on the faculty of management at Oral Roberts University’s College of Business.

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Comments

    • says

      Good point about authenticity, but there is a benefit to the alignment word. In recent years, we may have gone a bit overboard in our favoritism for servant leadership, such that we can sometimes forget the organizational and personal interests to need to be aligned. Is there a better word that touches on both that and the authenticity element? Thanks for the comment.

  1. says

    David, thanks for sharing, I haven’t seen Leadocracy yet, but like the Smart’s information on topgrading and hiring. I do like the As of leadership, but believe in the end as leaders we still have to have the ability to influence our followers to carry our As forward. Relationship is king in leadership. If we do not have a relationship built on trust and service to our followers…they may do what we want in the short run, but we will be replacing them in the long term if it is all about productivity. This is especially true for the new millinials we are leading now. Just my 2 cents.

    • says

      Great points Mike. I think the Three As describe what we have to do. Doing them through authentic relationships describes how we do it and is just as important.

  2. says

    I read the book a couple of months ago, and I enjoyed it. I do think the arguments hold up better when he focuses on administrator/Cabinet level positions within government — i.e. making government run better — rather than governorships and other positions requiring public campaigning. Also, I would have loved to hear what he thought, good and bad, about Rick Scott.
    An interesting complementary piece, too, is this from Chief Executive: http://chiefexecutive.net/examining-the-ceo-to-politician-path

    • says

      James, I totally agree. I think in general it’s probably better for private sector leaders to make the jump into cabinet roles. I think there’s some merit having a private sector leader in an executive role such as governor, etc. However, public campaigning really isn’t there strong suit. The conclusion of the article to attach says it perfectly: they don’t really DO relatabilty.

  3. says

    I will most likely use some version of this as I do strategic planning with my clients (entrepreneurs). You will see that my business is “CEO Vision” and our mission is to help the business owner translate her vision into a concrete strategy, organizational structure and high-performing staff, ie- translate their vision into reality.

    Therefore, for me, the most important “A” – and where it all begins – is “Aspiration” (I call this “Vision” but wanted to keep with the A theme). This is what galvanizes and inspires others to act (think: “We’re going to cure cancer”; “We’re going to put a man on the moon”, etc.). That said, Aspiration (Vision) without execution is an exercise in futility and this is where I believe your three A’s come in! Thanks.

    • DeAnna Myers says

      @Alix. THANK YOU – for mentioning attitude. I was thinking of the role that resource motivation plays in the implementation/ execution of a leader’s vision. I believe attitude would serve as a precursor to that: orgazational attitude as well as individual attitude. Does the environment encourage support the plan or will that need to be part of the alignment effort?

      • says

        Alix & DeAnna, Thanks for the comments. I think Attitude might fall into the same category as Emma’s Authenticity in that both consider HOW some does these activities – do they do them with a positive attitude that spreads to the organization? I totally agree that these HOWs are vital.

  4. says

    How do these three A’s differ from management? Why are these leader activities? And are they necessarily done by the leader? Seems leader-centric. And where is the inspirational aspect, subject of my latest blog. Also do these not vary by culture? In a more collectivistic society I doubt these would be seen as leader responsibilities but rather organizational. The three A’s are important but I don’t think they define leadership. My $.02.

    • says

      John, Thanks for the comment. To be totally honest, they more I’ve thought about the leader/manager debate and the more it’s been debated on this blog, the less I care to do so. For researchers, I think the distinction might be relevant. For managers/leaders, it’s likely irrelevant.

  5. Lisa Phillips says

    From my perspective, it’s may be missing just one extra A…the accountability ‘balanced’ piece. Or maybe that is already assumed in the role. What I mean by this ‘account balancing’ piece is that the leader of a company must create real value for the consumers she beneficially serves AND the company she financially serves AND the company’s team she courageously holds accountable for serving consumers and company interests.
    Could also be the core of analyzing, allocating, and aligning, too.

    • says

      Lisa, great point. I’m not totally sure if it’s included in the other 3 As, but perhaps it should be. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Marissa says

    I like the A’s. I know so many managers that are so worried about influence that the Analyzing and Allocating aspects of their jobs is neglected and leads to frustration for all.

    • says

      Marissa, for sure. This is probably a symptom of the current trend of promoting “leadership as influence” at the expense of the responsibilities leaders have as a result of their position. Thanks for the comment.