The Importance of Being ‘Deep’ and ‘Wide’ in Effective Leadership

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At its most basic level, leadership can be viewed as existing on two dimensions of impact; deep impact, and wide impact. Effective leaders learn to develop their leadership on each of these dimensions.

The wide dimension of leadership refers to how many people can be led. Does the leader have the capacity to lead 5 people? 50 people? 500?

Increasing skills and strategies in leadership usually enables growth along the “wide” dimension.

The deep dimension is different. This is measured not by “how many”, but by the depth of impact on a single person. This is where character in leadership matters most.

Leaders with great ability on the “deep” dimension leave a profound mark on the lives of those they touch. These are the leaders who have the unusual capacity to touch the life of another person in ways that leave a lasting impact.

The ability to grow in deep leadership requires a leader to focus on these kinds of questions:

  • How can I help you grow?

  • How can I help you improve?

  • How can I help you develop?

  • How can I help you advance?

  • How can I help you stretch?

These thoughts are fresh in my mind today, as I return to Chicago from my hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia, where I attended the funeral of my dear friend Jack McLaughlin.

Jack exemplified “deep leadership”.


Jack had the unique ability to make everyone he encountered feel like they were the most important person in the world.

Jack and I worked together for many years on the staff of a large Canadian church. Technically, I was his boss. But in just about every way that mattered, I looked up to Jack. He taught me more about impacting people on a one-on-one level than just about anyone else I’ve ever known.

Perhaps most importantly, Jack taught me that while developing “wide leadership” matters, every leader must also develop the ability to grow along the deep dimension as well.

That is the legacy of Jack McLaughlin in my own life.

And I trust that as you continue in your own journey, this will continue to be true in your leadership as well. Don’t measure your leadership only along the “how many” dimension. Always strive for impact people along the “how deep” dimension too.

Because as Jack taught me, leadership must be both deep as well as wide.




the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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