These new leadership terms come from Bill Courtney, the football coach and business owner featured in the Oscar winning documentary Undefeated, which is about the Manassas High School football team’s successful season after years of losing.   I recommend going to Netflix and watching it tonight, if you want to see real leadership in action.

Bill used these terms yesterday at a Rotary Club of Memphis presentation yesterday.  I’m paraphrasing his comments as best I can.

Vacuums are only good for picking up dirty.  Vacuums are not for leaders.  You are in a vacuum if:

  • You surround yourself with people just like yourself and only listen to their opinions when you try to lead.  You need opinions of people different than you if you are to lead.
  • All of us are in vacuums:  Church, work, school, fraternities and as such often have very limited perspectives or views when leading people through problems.
  • You need to know the data and circumstances surrounding all the people you lead, not just the ones you like.
  • If you remain in a vacuum you can’t establish an understanding of the situation or common ground with the people you are trying to lead or help.

Turkeyperson:  This is the person who does a good deed, once and a while, to feel good or to bring recognition to themselves when they want to help someone or serve someone.  Like the person who delivers turkeys at Christmas (which is a good thing to do) but never comes back between Christmases.

  • While your help might be well intended, it’s just a band-aid, and Lord knows we need band-aids all the time.
  • Real leadership requires one to present, consistent, and accountable.  Can’t happen once a year.

Thanks Bill, for adding clarity to the leadership conversations.

So are you a vacuum or a turkeyperson, or both?  Hope not.  Not if you really consider yourself a leader.