Duct Tape Leadership


duct tapeTo tell you the truth, I was a little nervous.

Sure, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some leaders of significance.  But this man… well, he was in a league I had never connected with before.  He is a leader of global stature.  I have no doubt his “black book” has contact information for the likes of Bono, Colin Powell, and Patrick Lencione.

The scope and scale of his leadership literally extends to scores of countries around the world and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people – in multiple languages.  And, his network includes the highest profile leaders on the planet.

So, there I was at Toronto’s private jet arrivals lounge, with a friend of mine who has the pleasure and privilege of working with this man on a regular basis,.  My friend had invited me to attend a leadership event with a small group of Toronto business leaders, led by this man.

Truth be told, I was a bit of a tag-along.  My friend needed to connect with his “boss”, and I was along for the ride.  Don’t say too much, meet and greet, sit and listen as we drove.  If he talks to me, I talk back – nothing more.

The private jet landed, he departed the plane on the tarmac and walked into the arrivals lounge.  He and my friend greeted each other with sincere affection.  My friend then introduced me.  A little small talk ensued and he made mention that his suitcase broke on the flight.

He then excused himself to use the washroom, leaving his bag behind.

I looked at his bag and saw that what had broken could easily be temporarily fixed with some duct tape.  So, I simply asked the employee in the arrivals lounge if he had access to some duct tape.  He asked his maintenance guy if they have duct tape and before you know it I was handed a roll of duct tape.

I made a quick fix on the suitcase, thanked the employee and handed the tape back to him.

The high profile leader came back from the washroom and grabbed his suitcase.  He immediately noticed that it had been repaired.

“How did this happen?”, he inquired.

“Oh, I saw it could be fixed fairly easily to make it usable for you so I got some duct tape from the maintenance guy.”, I explained.

And in that moment, the concept of Duct Tape Leadership was born.

My friend later told me that the simple duct taping episode had been turned into a leadership lesson by my ‘new friend’.

So what’s the lesson?

Well, leadership is simply taking initiative.  Leaders see a need and then take the initiative to meet that need.  Leaders can’t sit around and do nothing when they see something needs to be done.  Leaders do something.  Sometimes what needs to be done is very significant in scope and significance, and sometimes it’s fairly simple – like fixing a suitcase.

However, leaders take initiative to remedy a need for someone else.  Leaders are meant to be spent for the benefit of others.  A leader can choose to take the initiative themselves to meet the need, or they can take the initiative to engage their team to meet an unmet need for others.

We don’t need to complicate leadership.  Where can you take initiative to benefit someone else?  Where can you access a little duct tape to fix something that will help somebody out?  Duct tape is merely the solution to a problem.

So what’s the duct tape you can bring to a situation in your sphere of influence and authority?  How can you choose Duct Tape Leadership to solve a need in your world?  Where can you take initiative in a way that will solve an issue for those you lead, or perhaps for someone you may know outside of your work?

Leaders can’t help but take initiative in their worlds.   Leaders make the choice to not sit idly and watch needs go unmet.  Leaders also understand solutions don’t need to be complicated.  Oftentimes it’s the simple solutions that create the biggest impact.

We can all choose to take initiative.  We can all choose to apply a little duct tape here and there to help out.  It starts by looking past your own needs to the needs of others.  It starts with being aware of the needs that surround you.

Let’s look for the needs of others, and then practice a little Duct Tape Leadership.

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