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Duty – Doing More Than What You Are Asked To Do

Leaders lead. They don’t sit back and wait for someone to tell them it’s okay to lead.

“Tell me about a time you were a leader among your peers.”

This was a question I used to ask as I interviewed people for promotions. Many of their examples started with, “One time my manager asked me to lead….” My follow-up question was always, “That’s great. Now, tell me about a time you were a leader among your peers when someone didn’t ask you to do it.” I asked this because I didn’t want to promote people who only led when they were asked to do so. I wanted people who stepped up and led because it was needed. When someone sees the need for leadership in a situation—and steps forward to assume that role—they exercise the habit of Duty.

I had a young sales representative who was hesitant to step forward among her peers. I explained to her, “Leaders lead. They don’t sit back and wait for someone to tell them it’s okay to lead.”

This rep had already proven to be a great individual contributor to our sales team. She won our company’s highest individual sales award within her rookie year. Now, she talked about future promotions. When she asked me the best way to prepare for a promotion, I told her, “There are two things you have to do. One, is to master your current job. Two, lead where you are.”

This is the advice I give to anyone who asks how to get a promotion. It holds true in any industry. If you master your current role and are seen as someone who leads wherever you are - without being told, you are a great candidate for promotion. Even frontline, individual contributors have opportunities to lead.

How do we begin? Consider these actionable steps:

  • Lead with your words. Ask yourself, “Are you forthright and ready to speak when the boss asks for feedback, or are you part of the fearful and silent majority?”

  • Lead with your actions. Ask yourself, “Do you wait to be told what to do, or do you take the initiative and do what needs to be done?”

  • Lead with your attitude. Ask yourself, “Are you a positive influence on others, or do you join in with the complainers?”

Exercising the habit of Duty means we make these choices on a consistent basis. Each time we make the choice to lead with our words, actions or attitudes—we are developing a habit. It is a habit Leaders of Character exercise on a regular basis. Doing our Duty is not about waiting to be told what to do. It’s about doing what needs to be done. These are the people who earn new opportunities and inspire the people they are called to lead to follow them. Based on this factor, the question remains, “Would you follow you?”

Dig Deep Questions:

  • Who do you know who leads with their words, actions and attitudes? Would you follow them?

  • What opportunity might you have this week to step up and lead without being asked?


Taking responsibility and exercising Duty is a lifelong journey for not only you, but your team. We want to partner with you as you make Duty part of your organizational culture. When it comes to remembering the definition of Duty, let us help to make it easy to keep it visible.

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