Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Leading the Future

Volume: April 2010

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com 


Recently I was speaking to an organization and they asked me to state my definition of strategic leadership. This is one of my favorite questions, and my answer is quite succinct: “Leaders impact culture.” In fact, the question was a great lead-in to topic, which was Leading the Future. Rather than replicate the entire speech here, I will share a two of the areas that resonated with the leaders in the audience. As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts on the various topics.  


  1. Leaders impact culture. The example I like to use to back up this viewpoint is a real-life story – the names will be changed to protect the entirely guilty. Not that long ago, I was asked to deliver a workplace teambuilding and skill building session to a team of 24 people. The session was slated to run from 8am – 4pm. At eight o’clock 22 of the 24 people were in their seats and I turned to the owner of the company (let’s call him Clifford) and asked: “Shall we begin.” What do you think he said? Answer: the wrong words. Clifford said: “Well, we are missing two people. Let’s give them a few minutes and then we will begin.” I bit shocked, I turned to the audience and witnessed several dropped jaws. Ten minutes later, two staff members sauntered in and, with faint apology, took their seats. The session began and it turned out to be a great day. However, it was obvious that the origin of the team’s issues (a laissez faire attitude toward deadlines, and “us versus them”) lay not with the team, but rather with their leader. Without realizing the impact of his actions, what Clifford was doing was punishing his punctual team members and rewarding poor behavior (i.e., showing up late). In addition, his favorite people in the office were the ones who were consistently tardy. His soft treatment of them created animosity within the larger group, which often sought to undermine the offending parties.  


As a sidebar, I coached Clifford one-on-one and he was very receptive to changing his behaviors in order to positively impact the results delivered by his team. Within two  months of Clifford holding people more accountable, and being maniacal about starting meetings on time, his team responded by being serious about deadlines and eliminating the undermining behavior which had been taking place.             


Bottom Line: If you like the culture of your organization, wonderful, keep leading by the terrific example you set. If, however, you are not thrilled with the culture you experience, change your behavior and see if those you influence don’t begin to positively change as well.    


  1. Visionary leaders understand and use technology. When the telephone was invented it was revolutionary for the business world. Suddenly, a leader could pick up a device, dial a set of numbers and talk with another person of influence who was hundreds of miles away. Amazing. As with most new technologies, leaders are quick to fantasize about the potential benefits of the new technology, yet they often are slow to personally embrace the technology. With the telephone for instance, many leaders sent their secretaries to training, so that they could operate the telephone (i.e., dial a telephone number) and hand the phone to the executive. Doesn’t it sound silly, having someone else dial a telephone for us? Yet, the combination of ego (thinking that the devise was plebian and thus beneath them) and fear of the unknown, caused most executives to delegate real knowledge and understanding to others. In this case, who truly understood the nuances of the new technology? The answer: the secretary. The person who was best positioned to create ideas, expand the capabilities, embrace the scope, and envision the potential of the new technology was NOT the leader. Interestingly, leaders such as Carnegie and Rockefeller who learned about the telephone first-hand, used it the most and implemented strategies that grew the revenues and profits of their business.


Surprisingly, in today’s business world there are executives and entrepreneurs who are unable or refuse to manipulate word and excel documents; or who cannot efficiently set up and manage email files; or who fail to understand the power and strategy of social media. Similar to their telephone disadvantaged ancestors, it is only a matter of time until these leaders become irrelevant, unable to properly strategize in a changed world; and ill-positioned to implement actions – no matter how well-delegated.     


Bottom Line: Like it or not, the business world has changed and it is driven by technology. Computers (and our cell phones) are the pencils of the 21st century. Imagine doing business in the 20th century and not being able to wield a pencil – silly. Imagine doing business and the 21st century and not possessing some semblance of technological acumen……

Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and sales consultant, executive coach, and business planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available at www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug speak at your next event, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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