When it Comes to Leadership, Keep your Feet Underneath you

By Timothy Kist posted 05-03-2018 11:40


And your eyes facing forward.

In most sports, at least the ones I played in, you are taught to create a good base as the foundation for any movement.

In football, feet are shoulder width apart and slightly bent. There are other variations depending on your position. In basketball, you are taught a very similar stance so you can be in the triple threat position – pass, shoot or dribble. In hockey, you want your feet in a similar position so you can skate, pass or shoot.

And so on…

And your eyes are also important. Where your eyes look is where you will go. Try running in the snow with your eyes closed towards an object in the distance, and then turn back and see how you have veered off course. If you start walking towards a spot in the distance, you will get there quite directly if your eyes are on the target.

This concept is relevant to business strategy and leadership.

As a business you need your feet underneath you and your eyes in front. This means:

  • Know your strengths and build from them
  • Know your customer – external and internal
  • All areas of the business are aligned and understand their contribution to the overall purpose
  • You can move forward with confidence because of your strong base.

And move forward you must. If you don’t, a strong base will only help to a point and then you will be in someone else’s rear view mirror.

A leader needs to have his / her feet underneath. This means:

  • Being in the present. While you have to help the organization move forward, you need to be present each day because this is where it all begins
  • Expressing self-control – control of your organization begins with control of yourself. Be disciplined
  • Alertness is when you are constantly aware and observing what is happening right now. Always seek to improve yourself and your team
  • Intentness (a John Wooden term) is the perseverance you display in any adverse situation right now

You cannot change the past, even though we sometimes want to. Do not try to move forward by looking in the rear view mirror.

If your foundation becomes weak or distorted you will have a hard time regaining balance and strength to make the necessary moves forward. When a person is off balance they might fall. When a business is off balance they might have conflicts between departments or with their core values. When a leader is off balance they might display erratic behaviour and make poor decisions.

If you have poor vision you may not be attentive to the impact of a major technology shift, competitor action, or other factor and the result can be catastrophic to you and your team. Ensure that you have other eyes looking ahead. A mentor or coach perhaps is helpful.

Sailing ships crossing oceans plotted their course and the captain was ultimately responsible for giving directions. But he always had other lookouts because he could not see everything. He would even send up a special mate to the crow’s nest for a different perspective on the horizon.

C. S. Forrester wrote a terrific series featuring the character Horatio Hornblower. The series chronicles his rise from midshipman to Admiral and the many adventures of his various ships. One common theme of the character was his awareness of his crew, the importance of his leadership, and the strength and conviction to the mission and doing the right thing. Swashbuckling for sure – very well written and the details are amazing.

He had his feet underneath him for balance and command, and his eyes to the horizon to ensure they arrived at their destination.

Are your feet underneath and steady? Are your eyes keen?

Then stand by for adventure!

About the Author

Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), whose certification was obtained through a combination of experience, examination and continuous professional development. With over 20 years of senior industry management, combined with nearly 8 years in management consulting with national firms, Tim brings together extensive experience, objectivity, and front line leadership. As a national athlete and current university football coach, Tim lives and understands the evaluation, preparation and game planning required for successful high level individual and team performance. He has successfully brought this coaching approach to his work teams throughout his leadership career. Read More

A version of this post was first published here