Leadership is like a string in two ways: we can push or pull.  “Pushing on a string” is exhausting and has limited utility, including in organizations.  Pulling works, but is limited to the extent that your force is greater than the possible resistance.

The options for leading are then are to 1) continue to force (push) or 2) optimize the conditions for pulling.  Think of pulling as the process of getting people (your team or organization) moving in your direction.

Ways to get people moving in your direction:

-communicate an attractive future state (vision).  We are going great places and the future is bright.

-communicate an attractive reason (mission). We are creating great impact for our clients/industry/sphere of influence.

-create an enjoyable “how” (culture).  We get things done the right way.

-engage a style that does not push others away.  I interact with and influence others in a positive, productive way.

-make it better to be “here” than “there” (engagement).  We seek to satisfy the wants of contributors including but not limited to compensation.*

To what extent do you and your leaders pull people in?  Are you and your leaders over-relying on pushing? If so, why?  In what ways can you be even better at pulling? Are there areas of your organization that can be even better at pulling?


*example of other factors to consider:

  • having the best tools and processes to do the job
  • developmental opportunities
  • advancement opportunities
  • opportunity for challenging work
  • appreciation expectations
  • recognition expectations
  • opportunities to work in a team
  • opportunities to have autonomy