Series On The Four Imperatives Of Extraordinary Leaders


sam senn olympiaBy: Sam Senn, President/CEO Sam Senn & Associates, Executive Director, THE EXCELLENCE PROJECT

Take this Simple Test to See if You’re an Extraordinary Leader?

I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  I’d earned my master’s degree.  I was headed back for my doctorate.  I’d spent the last twenty years in leadership roles reading virtually all the literature and teaching leadership courses.  So how come I was so stumped when a wise mentor asked me this basic question:  How do you know when you’re an extraordinary leader?

After a bluster-filled and self-important five minutes of espousing the myriad ways to measure leadership success he interrupted with a kind chuckle.   You’re trying too hard he said:  If you really want to know if you’re extraordinary leader – just look over your shoulder – is there anybody following?

What a wonderfully humbling lesson; that leadership is not a title…it’s your behavior, actions and results.  Simply put, do you have the chops to positively influence others to act?  If you want to become an extraordinary leader, where do you start?  There are a ton of models and leadership development formats out there but when I coach clients I prefer Stephen R. Covey’s Four Imperatives, they are:


Do the people I serve have faith in my character (intent) and competence (ability to deliver results)?


Have I created a clear and compelling end-in-mind, does everyone know the job-to-be done?


Do we have alignment with processes/ goals, right people/right tasks, do we know if we’re winning?


Do we play to our strengths using the best within each person and in concert within each team?

All of the imperatives matter, but it all starts with TRUST.  As Stephen Covey says, “Trust comes from trustworthy acts”.  At the heart of every great organization is its ability to chase its goals with unfettered enthusiasm.  The ability to do so comes from working in an environment of high-trust.

Think about it.  In a low-trust culture you have one eye on the prize and the other constantly looking over your shoulder.  That math alone suggests you are working (at best) 50% of the time on what’s most important.   Real survey data show that high-trust organizations are typically 3x more productive than their low-trust competitors.  Couldn’t you use 3x the results you are currently getting?

You too can become an Extraordinary Leader.  In a series of future articles I will unpack each of these imperatives and provide ‘how-to’ advice in more detail starting with Inspiring Trust.

At the end of the day what it really takes is a genuine commitment to honoring the imperatives.  Through your fidelity to these ‘trustworthy acts’ you will earn the respect and support of your team.  Just look over your shoulder boss, they’re with you all the way!

SPECIAL INVITATION!  On February 28th please join us for the Extraordinary Leadership Conference at the Great Wolf Lodge.  We have three great leadership tracks focusing on leadership character, creating win-win partnerships, and building positive and empowering team cultures.  Check out our website for more information.


Sam Senn

President/CEO Sam Senn & Associates


Nationally known for his skill in developing principle-centered organizations Sam helps you create high-performing organizational cultures where people are engaged, inspired and passionate about what they do.

Sam is a strategic partner with FranklinCovey.  FC serves over 90% of the Fortune 100 and 75% of the Fortune 500 companies as well as a multitude of public, private, military and education sector organizations in over 150 different countries with courseware in 32 different languages.

A former senior executive with the State of Washington and leader of over 4,000 staff, Sam is an experienced guide in helping you turn vision into action, inspiring others to bring out their very best and delivering bottom-line results.

*THE EXCELLENCE PROJECT is organized by a group of community minded people who are dedicated to advancing leadership in our region. We believe that better leadership in all areas will translate to a better future for the community as a whole.

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