Visibility in Leadership

“Be right, be wrong but never be in doubt.” That was piece of homespun advice given to me early in my career by an experience mentor. These words now resonate with me when I see in the Media our political leaders being criticised for being wishy-washy or not having a plan. Visibility in leadership is what people want.

Clearly our communities are much more likely to support a leader who is not only capable and confident in their abilities but who actively demonstrates that positiveness in the sight of those who follow. The same rule applies whether in politics or in organisational management.

Being right

Strong positive leadership requires visible success. Identifying problems and finding effective solutions to them is the hallmark of leadership. Moreover it is essential that a leader be seen to develop a record of choosing the right paths to effective solutions as a matter of course. Trust in the leader’s good judgement is a significant factor in building confidence within an organisation to step out boldly in finding solutions for itself or more importantly actively and enthusiastically pursuing the direction laid out by the leader.



If an organisation believes in the leader’s ability to continually make good and right decisions those decisions will be implemented with diligence. Even more importantly when the going gets tough and the leader must make difficult choices, the organisation will be more likely to demonstrate its confidence in the leader if there is a track record of being right in the past. This is especially so in the relationship between a Board and its CEO where a change of Directors can often signal a change of CEO based on issues of confidence in future performance.

Ready to be wrong

This is not a call to be knowingly wrong in making choices but signals a willingness to take some risks to ensure forward momentum. Obviously leaders who repeatedly make serious errors of judgement won’t survive long. But being highly risk averse is also a way to lose the support and confidence of the Board or your team. In most situations and dilemmas doing nothing is the worst of the alternatives available. Having assessed the risks, controlled those you can and judged the consequences of the others, more opportunities are presented by doing something, even if it turns out to be a poor decision, rather than nothing.

If the risk assessment is conducted appropriately the degree of error will be minimised and in most cases easily corrected. Most people respect leaders who are prepared to have a go and risk falling short.

Never being in doubt

Of course all leaders experience times of doubt, especially when the alternative courses of action they are presented with offer unpalatable prospects on all sides. However the visibility of good leaders in such circumstances is high and all eyes are on them in expectation. Presenting a personae of uncertainty and confusion does not instil confidence in the team, customers or the community but sparks rejoicing and mirth in competitors, rivals or opponents.

Demonstrating confusion and uncertainty is the quickest way to lose the support of followers as recent opinion polls in political circles indicate.


newspoll 4.16Confidence in leadership

The issue is really about a leader’s ability to display confidence, well-founded confidence in all situations. Great leaders whether in the military, commerce or government always project an assured and confident outlook even if they have some niggling doubts deep down.

This is especially important when the team or followers have significant lack of confidence in themselves. Confidently led teams can achieve far above their innate abilities through the inspiration of a visible leader in their midst.

Being there in the thick of the melee is an essential element of leadership in tough times. The capacity of a leader to rally the troops when disorder seems imminent is underpinned by the extent of confidence the followers have in that leader’s ability to do something special.

When that special thing happens they will follow their leader rightly or wrongly – but if the leader falters the followers flee. How well Shakespeare penned that tenet in Henry V’s rousing St Crispin’s Day speech.

[Featured image = Laurence Olivier’s renowned 1944 portrail]


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