When to Push Your Leadership “Amp” Up to 11

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Every leader wants their organization to perform at “10 out of 10” effectiveness. But great leaders I’ve known have a skill that tells them when it’s time to punch it up to 11.

Fans of the classic comedy film This is Spinal Tap know exactly what I’m talking about.

This “mock-umentary” about an aging British rock band features a hilarious scene in which the lead guitarist (Nigel, played by Christopher Guest) tries vainly to explain the extra power contained in his guitar’s amplifier.

“You see, most blokes will be playing on 10…where can you go from there? Nowhere! Exactly…But what we do, if we need that extra push over the cliff, what we do is we go up to 11. One louder.”

As silly as that scene plays, leaders need to know when it’s time to go one louder; when it’s time to go up to “11”.

This week our ministry’s lead team tackled two projects where “10” would have been acceptable. But I thought that one of them needed that extra push. We needed to go up to 11. It would require extra effort and it would introduce added complexity, but I believe the payoff would be well worth it for those we serve.

How do you make that call? Here’s what I’ve learned from effective leaders. If you allow your organization to cruise along at “10” all the time, you’ll lose energy and atrophy will set in. But if you recklessly push it to “11” too often you’ll establish an unsustainable pace and you’ll burn out your people.

To navigate these dynamics here are questions I’ve learned from effective leaders;

1. If we continued to simply cruise along at “10”:

a. what would it cost us in terms of long-term momentum?

b. what could be the gains in terms of sustainability?

2. If we pushed it up to 11 for a while:

a. what would it cost us in terms of staff and organizational burn-out?

b. what would be the gains for the organization?

If your organization is feeling strained to the breaking point, perhaps it’s time to pull it back down to 10. But if you sense a lack of energy and momentum, it might be time for that little extra push over the cliff; it may be time to go one louder, up to 11.

How do you know when it’s time to go up to 11?

the author

Scott Cochrane

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