Leadership Gumpism: A Leader is as a Leader Does

Elizabeth Lembke
3 min readFeb 21, 2019

February 21 · Transforming Talent Insights · Issue #30 · View online

Last week I had the honor of facilitating a meeting with the upper management of an automotive supplier. While many of the topics we covered were about direction, we dialled-in on the topics of WIIFM and WIIFU (aka what does it mean for me/us?), what does success look like and the imperative around clear “why’s”. These questions all led us in the direction of asking:

What is a leader and what is a leader’s role?

It is an important and very timely question as organizations transform, decouple work, place people in roles of leadership without authority, and flex in new ways, the concept of a leader comes under scrutiny.

It is my simplistic gumpism that a “leader is as a leader does.” For me, being a leader is not about a title you wear (or don’t) — but rather is an attitude, an expectation and behavior aligned with guiding principles.

In my experience, when evaluating leadership talent*, the question of “is this person a leader” can be broken down into four key areas: company values & operating principles, innovation, leadership and results.

The clue is the discussion of both the How, and not only the What.

Key questions to ask can be:

  • Does the person live the company’s values & operating principles? Do others see him/her as a role model? Do they treat others with respect? Can they collaborate and build relationships? Are they willing to stand-up for the “right-thing to do”?
  • Does the person deliver results? Does he/she consistently deliver strong results? Find solutions? Accept accountability? Able to organize and prioritize what they say “yes” to? How does the person deliver — by including others or pushing own ideas through? Do they build-on ideas constructively or defensively? Are they willing to make decisions — and rework if necessary?
  • Does the person fuel innovation and continuous improvement? Does he/she see how things could be different and change accordingly? Does this person clear the way for great ideas? Challenge the status quo? Anticipate needs? Think beyond the now and embrace risk? Are driven by curiosity and learning?
  • Does the person provide leadership? Do others want to follow him/her? Can he/she manage talent? Coach others? Eliminate barriers? Engage proactively and collaboratively internally and externally? Are they willing to make strong hires — and foster others to flourish?

As the world of work evolves to be more self-driven, and customer-obsessed, so too will the role of a leader become less-and-less about a title and more about the social and soft skills of getting results with others via co-creation.

I believe the Leadership Gumpism will continue to hold true: A Leader is as a Leader Does.

What are your thoughts on the leader look-for’s?



Elizabeth Lembke

Chief Talent Navigator: Passionately transforming work, culture, talents and HR. www.transformingtalent.co @hrimprov #learningmavens #AMaze2022 EN/DE/Gif