Small Moves for Big Leadership

As an unabashed bookworm, I like to check out other people’s bookshelves. These days, so much of what we read is available digitally and instantly, that reading and keeping a hardcover book is usually a conscious decision. So naturally, I was curious when I spied an unexpected title, Pleasures of Small Motions: Mastering the Mental Game of Pocket Billiards, on the bookshelf of a long-time client.

My client explained that the book wasn’t about the geometry or physics of billiards, but rather the mental game of concentration, focus, and emotional control. That got us talking about the inner game of leadership and the importance of mindset and presence.

Some of the most important moves you can make as a leader are quiet ones. Some can’t been seen at all. But their impact is felt. At this busy time of year, here are four small, but meaningful moves you can make to support the growth and development of the people around you.

Take a Risk

We talk a lot about how to encourage risk-taking, but we don’t always model it ourselves. Here’s one small way:  Give your team a project they’re not quite ready for. Here’s another: Sign off on an idea you’re not completely sold on yet. Get out of your comfort zone, take a small risk, and convey trust in your people at the same time.

Take a Break

Some leaders seem to operate from a belief that intensity equals commitment. But if sustainability is your goal (and it should be), then balance and healthy behaviors are the key. Periods of rest help you perform at max capacity when you need to. A small motion: Let your employees see you leave early to spend time with your family, go holiday shopping, be physically active, or otherwise take good care of yourself.

Be Personal 

If I asked you to describe a good relationship, I doubt you’d use the words “distant” or “disengaged.” You’d probably say in a good relationship there’s communication, trust, and connection. Why would our relationships at work be any different? Here’s a small move you can make any day, any time:  Ask a personal question. “What are your plans for the holiday?” “What was your favorite tradition growing up?” Share your answers, too. The best leaders take a human approach to working with humans.

Be Present

If half the battle is showing up, the other half is being fully present. Lots of leaders show up, but they’re not really there. They’re distracted by the latest crisis, the ping of multiple devices, or the thoughts in their own heads. If you really want to distinguish yourself, pay deep attention to what’s happening in the present moment. Simple things like putting down your phone, making eye contact, stilling yourself, and listening, can have an incredibly positive impact on another person.

Leadership isn’t only about the big stuff like vision, strategy or innovation. It’s also about finding pleasure in the small motions that make up our days and ultimately our leadership. Maybe it’s as Emily Dickinson said: “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.”



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