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How to Take the Stress Out of Leadership

This month’s Gifted Leaders e-Newsletter features an article from the Center for Creative Leadership web site that can help you de-stress about leadership with one big idea: Leadership is about three outcomes. The focus is less on “The Leader” and a laundry list of individual leadership competencies and more on “The Leadership Process” and helping everyone pay attention to its essential elements.

Highlights from the Article

Do you wonder what attributes or competencies people need to be good leaders? Do you have a list in your head of all the things you should be doing to be more effective? Leadership is complicated, but at its core, leadership is a social process that enables individuals to work together to achieve results they could never achieve working as individuals. Central to the process are the interactions and exchanges between the formal leader and group members, and among group members themselves. In other words, it’s not all about you and what you alone should be doing better.

The best way to be more effective is to focus as a group on the three outcomes of leadership: direction, alignment and commitment (DAC).

  • DIRECTION is agreement in the group on overall goals. In groups with strong direction, members have a shared understanding of what group success looks like and agree on what they are aiming to accomplish. In groups with weak direction, members are uncertain about what they should accomplish together, or they feel pulled in different directions by competing goals.

  • ALIGNMENT is coordinated work within the group. In groups with strong alignment, members with different tasks or roles or with different sets of expertise coordinate their work. In groups with weak alignment, members work more in isolation, unclear about how their tasks fit into the larger work of the group and are in danger of working at cross-purposes, duplicating effort, or having important work fall through the cracks.

  • COMMITMENT is mutual responsibility for the group. In groups with strong commitment, members feel responsible for the success and well-being of the group, and know that other group members feel the same. They trust one another and will stick with the group through difficult times. In groups with weak commitment, members put their own interests ahead of the group’s interests and contribute to the group only when it is easy to do so or when they have something to gain.

Putting DAC to Work

First, assess current levels of DAC. The best way to do this is to get input from everyone involved. A quick, free DAC assessment you can do with your team is available at

Next, if you learn that the group has low levels of direction, alignment or commitment, dig a bit deeper. Some factors that contribute to weak DAC include:

  • Direction hasn’t been articulated or talked about. Maybe someone in charge has set a direction but others don’t really understand it or care about it.

  • Disagreement about direction is known but not openly acknowledged.

  • We jump into tasks and projects without a plan or connecting it to others’ work.

  • We don’t bring in others with relevant expertise, or manage work assignments effectively.

  • Resources are not appropriately allocated.

  • We are unclear who is responsible for what tasks or who has authority to make what decisions.

  • We see duplication of effort, or conversely, gaps where aspects of the work fall through the cracks.

  • People think of themselves as doing individual work, not responsible for group outcomes.

  • Group members don’t see themselves as having the ability or influence to address problems.

  • People feel left out of the group. Maybe turnover is constant or one subgroup dominates.

  • Individuals don’t feel like they get the credit they deserve for their contributions to the group.

Finally, identify changes that could improve direction, alignment or commitment. To enhance DAC, you might need to change things such as:

  • The quality or frequency of interactions among group members.

  • The relationships among particular members.

  • The formal or informal processes for making decisions or getting work accomplished.

  • The skills of individual group members.

  • Shared assumptions and cultural beliefs of the group as a whole.

So, if you are feeling the pressure to improve performance or your group is facing a big challenge, stop overloading yourself. Instead, turn to the team and work on direction, alignment and commitment.

Read the article here.

The Gifted Perspective

CCL’s definition of leadership is consistent with our own. We believe that leadership is a collective capacity that is widely distributed. It extends beyond the formal, positional leader or just a few members of the senior leadership team and is a shared, co-constructed function that encompasses vision and strategy as well as day-to-day operations.

That sounds a lot like Direction, Alignment, and Commitment (DAC), right?!

Let us help you explore DAC with your team through a one-on-one or team coaching relationship!

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