3 Timely Ways To Avoid the Perils of Clipboard Leadership

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Leadership is about producing results, not reports. If you’ve ever encountered a leader who seemed more interested in inspecting activities than in inspiring results, you’ve encountered Clipboard Leadership.

Clipboard Leadership is one of the most demotivating forms of authority you are ever likely to encounter. Clipboard Leadership emerges when the need for reports begins to outweigh the need for results.

One of my first experiences with Clipboard Leadership showed up during a season where an organization I helped to lead was merging with another organization. At one of our first joint operations I saw that their team was lacking energy and direction.

But I soon saw why. Their leader was literally walking around with a clipboard and pen in hand, merely inspecting everyone’s work. There was little vision. There was little focus. There was only inspection.

But one need not have an actual clipboard in order to be seen as a Clipboard Leader. All it takes is a misguided belief that leadership is all about checking on progress.

How Can You Prevent Clipboarding from Creeping Into Your Leadership?

Even the most effective leaders can slip into a Clipboarding. Sometimes the genuine need for information can subtly morph into an unhealthy and unnecessary request for constant updates. When this happens, progress will stall as your team becomes increasingly frustrated by the need to produce reports, rather than results.

Watch for these early warning signs in your own leadership:

You might be slipping into Clipboard Leadership when…

  1. You are avoiding a decision.

    The easiest way to avoid a tough call is to keep asking for more information.
  2. You are filling time.

    Leaders dislike being idle. Sometimes this restlessness can inadvertently be filled with over-zealous requests for progress reports.
  3. You are stuck in your leadership.

    A mild sense of panic can grip a leader who isn’t sure how to move forward. Sometimes it can feel like progress when you are pouring through project updates.

Leaders need information. They need to know what is happening in the organization.

But when this begins to result in endless requests for information, it signals that it’s time to set aside the clipboard. It’s time to lead.

Because people want to be led by someone who is calling for results, not reports.

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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