People often ask me about their role as a leader. I had the same problem answering this one for many years. I couldn’t, at first, come up with an appropriate response. The more that people asked me, the more I thought about it, and the more I was compelled to develop my own definition.

My definition of the role of the leader has become something of a work in progress over many years. Unfortunately, every time it evolves it gets longer, not shorter. However, I seem to have settled on a definition now, that I have been comfortable with and using for a number of years. That definition goes like this.

“The role of the leader is to provide, the direction, infrastructure, tools and support, to enable your people to perform their roles, to the best of their ability, in a manner consistent with the goals of the organisation.”

I told you it was long. However, I can’t get it any shorter. So, let me just explain the various components in a little more detail.

Firstly, the role of the leader is to provide the Direction – that means as you have heard me say before – having your people understand what you are trying to achieve. It comprises an overall long-term vision for the organisation as well as long, medium and short term goals. You should try to keep those goals and aspirations simple – that makes them easy to communicate to your people and easy for them to remember. If your people understand what you are trying to achieve then they will understand and know how they are expected to behave in ways that are consistent with the organisation’s values, goals and standards.

Infrastructure refers to the various structures and processes needed to ensure the organisation can operate efficiently and effectively. This includes the definition of key roles, reporting lines, people resources, processes, authority levels, and so on. Good processes ensure that things like order fulfillment, billing, financial management, handling customer enquiries and complaints, and all other aspects of the “daily grind” are well managed.

Tools are the easy stuff like premises, computers, vehicles, software licenses, internet access and so on. Some tools comprise the basic hardware, software and facilities for the day-to-day business operation. Others might be project specific. Whatever they are, the leaders need to make sure the people doing the work have the necessary tools in place to enable them to do their job.

Support comes in many forms. Once people know what they’re trying to achieve and have the enablers – structures, processes and tools – in place, they need to know that they have the leader’s or manager’s support to do their jobs. Ideally, your people will be part of a team and, most importantly, they need to know where to go for leadership support and input. A good support structure enables the organisation and all the people within it to effectively manage the various relationships – both internally and externally – across the business.

Sometimes the support structures will require you, the leader, to call a difficult customer or help handle a complaint. If you can’t or won’t do that, then why should your people? As the leader, you need to stay in touch with your team’s challenges and, be able to respond with the kind of issues they face, with good constructive input and ideas that contribute to the process, and therefore enable them to do a great job.

On the back of these four headings – direction – infrastructure – tools and support – enabling people to perform their roles “to the best of their ability” and “… in a manner that is consistent with the goals of the organisation” should be self-explanatory.

Remember, the great majority of people go to work every day with the intention of doing a good job. But it’s up to us to enable them to do that. As Sun Tsu the military General from ancient China said, “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame”.

So, here’s that rather long definition one more time …

The role of the leader is to provide, the direction, infrastructure, tools and support, to enable your people to perform their roles, to the best of their ability, in a manner consistent with the goals of the organisation.

Perhaps you can consider that as you approach the week ahead.

And as always, I’d love to get your feedback at

Thanks for watching.  Have a great week.