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[This is the final part in the series I’ve been writing about how to address the big “now what?” question that comes when you feel called to do something exciting and scary at the same time. See part 1 here), part 2 here and part 3 here.


You are now awake to the mission in front of you. You staked your claim for what you want and created a powerful context. In some cases, that’s all it takes, but often what you want to create requires others to come along — you must lead.

Given the many popular thoughts around leadership and the fact that I’ve used the word “design” on numerous occasions in this series, you might expect at this point for me to talk about authentic leadership, forging your own path, taking the road less traveled.

Doing anything by design, typically means creatively doing something in a new, innovative way. That’s OK, but the design I’m talking about is your and my original design. The design or blueprint you were created by and for… your true operating system. When living, leading and working this way, you and those you’re leading flourish.

What do I mean by your true operating system or leading by your original design?

As a human race, the same seven principles emerge again and again over the course of recorded history as pivotal to leadership success; whether that be leading your home, community, organization or government. It’s my belief that this is how we were created to lead.

There are seven aspects to your leadership operating system. Today we’ll look at three – Initiative, Relationships and Service. It’s interesting that we can find age-old and contemporary examples for each one that display the impact when each have been put into practice.


I toyed with the idea of sharing “Vision” as one of the three principles of leading by design, but decided that that I’m tired of talking and thinking about vision.

Vision alone gets us nowhere. Ken Blanchard said, “Intention (or vision) minus action equals SQUAT.”

Taking initiative implies that a person is willing to move into empty space where nothing exists and create.  It requires imagination and the courage to take a risk.

One of my favorite stories of initiative is how Richard Branson started Virgin Airways. “I was in my late twenties, I had a business, but nobody knew who I was at the time. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and I had a very pretty girl waiting for me, so I was, umm, determined to get there on time. At the airport, my final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought this was ridiculous, so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do.

Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29.” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.”

Consider the mission in front of you:

  • What is the gap to be filled?
  • What’s the risk it’s inviting you to take?
  • Who can you enlist to creatively fill the gap?
  • Are you willing to take the initiative?

When it comes to initiative, it comes down to a choice. Remember “Vision minus Initiative equals Squat” and it begs the question…Do you REALLY want what you’ve said you want?


Leadership is a relational process and is at its best when experienced in community and not when it is imposed on people. It is demonstrated by interdependence, mutuality, respect and care. Leadership is measured in commitment and service to others and relationships always trump task. Prioritize people and see the end of leadership as the betterment of life for those people we lead.

Our friend Nehemiah from the 5th century B.C. provides an example of tapping into the leadership principle of relationships through a focus on interdependence. Line after line of the recorded story describes one person after another working side by side on a particular part of the project. It was a diverse group pulling together to accomplish the mission. Nehemiah clearly knew the power of team, the relationships among the team and his actions reflect the axiom that “no one of us is as capable as all of us!”

  • What relationships need to be nurtured for your mission?
  • Where can you create interdependence on the team?


While there may be many acts of serving the needs of those you’re leading, the spirit of this enduring principle is the leader’s mindset. The mindset that I’m with you, serving alongside of you and not here to lord over you. Robert Greenleaf’s “Best Test” gives the best framework for leadership as service.

“Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived? “

Costco CEO, Jim Sinigel, displayed the heart and mindset of leadership as service. He made a point to not lay anyone off during the recession. They knew how difficult the economic times were and how nervous everyone was. He recognized that people were literally hiding money under mattresses.

Sinigel said “It worked out for us, and we feel pretty good about that. We feel good that we were able to accomplish it, and I think our people appreciate that and understand that an effort was made to make sure everyone kept their jobs.”

  • Who or what is your mission about? Is it about you?
  • What are the needs of those you’re leading?

Operating from your true and original design is a recipe for joy and flourishing. From this place of leadership and connection, you’ll experience fulfillment and RESULTS. Families thrive. Communities thrive. Teams thrive with new levels of commitment, energy and engagement.

If you’re ready to explore leading by your true operating system or uncovering the mission God has for you — let’s talk. As part of my mission of service, I reserve time every week to connect with and support leaders like you. Contact me https://brilliancewithincoaching.com/contact to schedule a complimentary powerful coaching conversation.

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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