Are You Pushing or Pulling as a Leader?

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.” – John Buchan

Recently, as I was looking for inspiring quotes on leadership, I found the above and it resonated with me. I had been focusing my efforts on a marketing challenge and was reading a great article that appeared in the Harvard Business Review: Three Steps to Generating Social Gravity, by Mark Bonchek. It describes the push and pull concept of today’s savvy consumers and also touches on the concept that leaders these days need to take a note and apply some pull vs. push in their style.

It’s true people don’t like to be pushed. I certainly do not — whether it’s in a long line at the airport queuing up or in a boardroom — I find it’s rather uncomfortable and in said case, I often leave my best manners, work ethics and creativity elsewhere. But when a great leader creates that wonderful gravitational field that attracts and inspires those they lead often, we are pulled into a state of inspired creativity and would motivate anyone to move the Earth to orbit that person’s influence. Leadership like this is enduring and meaningful and inspires authentic relationships; we are drawn to it like flies to a bright light.

There are multiple leadership books written on the topic but really it’s very simple to create this gravitational pull style of leadership:

1. Shared Purpose – Provides the Why
The focus isn’t on the immediate, but on achieving the shared purpose or goal, a sense of  accomplishment. This shared purpose attracts and retains those high achievers and many will bring along their like-minded achievers to rally and join.

2. Engaged Communications ( Platforms)  – Provides the What
Engage your audience by providing added value in a platform they can use to their benefit. From HBR: “Engagement platforms are built from multiple layers working together. The identity layer recognizes the customer. The data layer exchanges information to personalize the experience. The relationship layer enables connection among the brand and community members. Finally, the value layer delivers benefits to the users.”

3. Collaboration – Provides the  How
When we allow colleagues to be partners we are engaging a powerful way of amplifying and accelerating the common goals. It can multiply the efforts of teams and bring value to potential contributors and add credibility to reinforce value and build trusted relationships versus pushing a mandate. People want to be asked to contribute and generally will give their best when they feel that they are being pulled into collaboration versus being pushed. When combining forces, you can multiply value rapidly.

So, the takeaway message is: don’t push — pull. More often greatness is already in those we lead, and as leaders our job is to elicit it. My guess is that more often than not, greatness was there to begin with — it just wasn’t being engaged.


  1. Jason Kiesau

    Great post.

    I agree, greatness is in everyone of us and the challenge becomes putting people in environments where their insecurities are minimized and they allow their confidence to shine through.

    If you haven’t read Tribes, by Seth Godin, I’d recommend it. My biggest take aways were that people are looking for leaders. They are looking for people to follow who are willing to take control of their world and attack their dreams with passion. He advocates that if we are passionate about something, we MUST take action and when we do, people will follow.

    Everyone is a leader!

    • C.K. Brechin

      Thanks Jason, I will look for that book. I truly believe we are all leaders, just need to foster and support.


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