How To Prevent Life-Jackets From Becoming Straight-Jackets

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If you cling too tightly to even the best of leadership tools, you could soon find these tools turning from a life-jacket into a straight-jacket.

There are countless tools available to assist you in the leadership of your team or organization. Leaders typically embrace these tools like a life-jacket; something designed to keep your leadership afloat. But if you’re not careful, these same tools can become more of a straight-jacket; something that limits you and restricts your effectiveness.

Here are three of the most common tools found in the arsenals of most leaders. Each has a positive purpose, but each has the potential of limiting your leadership effectiveness too:

1. The Strategic Plan

Every leader should develop a strategic plan in order to achieve the goal, and the plan should be followed.


Being overly bound to the plan can thwart creativity and can limit the exploration of new, fresh ideas. Sometimes the breakthrough idea you need is to be found just outside the parameters of your carefully devised plan.

Have a plan. Follow the plan. But don’t be restricted by the plan.

2. The Organization Chart

Effective leaders place strong emphasis on creating comprehensive organization charts, and they make sure everyone knows their place within the chart. In his groundbreaking book, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Patrick Lencioni emphasizes that leaders must:

  • Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team,
  • Create organizational clarity
  • Over-communicate organizational clarity
  • Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems.

Tools like organization charts really matter.


It can be a short walk from “Know your place in the organization”, to “Don’t help or support team members from other parts of the organization.”

Don’t allow the org chart to limit contributions throughout the organization.

3. The Job Description

Everyone wants to know what is expected of them, and the trusty job description is a fine tool for accomplishing that noble task.


An obsessively-held job description can turn a team member from “All for one, and one for all” into “that’s not in my job-description”.

Job descriptions matter. But don’t let them limit your contributions.

These tools, and countless others like them, represent some of the most important items available for effective leadership. But leaders must develop the ability to recognize when and if these tools could be restricting, rather than promoting your team’s objectives.

So pay attention to any signs that these tools could be restricting performance. Otherwise these life-jackets really could become straight-jackets.


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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