The Three Differentials of Leadership

Last week I shared a No Regrets approach to leadership to kick off a series on being a purposeful and inspiring leader in today’s increasingly complicated world. This Friday my reflections fall upon an article written for by Leigh Buchannan that looks at traits of “true leaders”. All of these traits are undoubtedly valuable to a leader who wishes to earn the respect of those they are leading, but I would also suggest three differentials I believe set truly great leaders apart.

Know Your Why

A leader’s “why” is both intrinsic and external. It’s the one thing no one can take away and it will continue to drive and fuel us when the monotonies of daily tasks begin to cloud our once crystal clear vision. Whereas most people are shaped by their external surroundings and ideologies given to them by others, purposeful leaders are driven by an internal force that cannot be shaken. Many of you may be familiar with Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action and I truly believe his mantra that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. My “why” is simple…to enrich the lives of my Elanco family and the lives of those around the world who are hungry and in need of proper protein and nutrition.


When we have a “why” set before us, it’s critical to be disciplined so we’re able to meet wildly important goals. To do this I’ve utilized principles from The 4 Disciplines of Execution: focus, application and accountability. Focus on objectives and act on lead measures that will enable success. Keep a compelling scoreboard of success and failures along the way to stay motivated. Finally, an environment of accountability can help steer us back on course when we veer off.


As leaders, staying on the cutting edge will keep us fresh every day. Being stagnant is kryptonite and taking measures to sustain and improve our edge is imperative. Seek edifying experiences from your surroundings, whether this is through collaboration with peers or serving others; and never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. Practices I utilize to stay fresh and edgy are reading daily, mentoring and seeking mentorship each month, and having a project to work on throughout the year.

It is my belief that we can all be differential leaders in this world. I encourage you to find your “why”, utilize disciplines to achieve your goal, and remember to stay edgy!


3 thoughts on “The Three Differentials of Leadership

  1. Thanks for a neat contribution Jeff, and the challenge to comment. I’m not sure if my three would be different from yours, although the language may be different.

    “Purpose” is high on my list of present enthusiasms. People join organisations and movements because they believe in the purpose. People choose to lead – because they have a purpose – and it all starts with the “why”. Fit for purpose organisations thrive. Subservience to purpose keeps us focused (discipline).

    There is another operative word is “choose”. Now this is really interesting because I’m not too sure how many of us get into leadership by accident, or by choice. Often, I think, be choice a position because of other reasons and the leadership sort of comes with the turf. Be that as it may, we must make a conscious choice in deciding to lead. And that is where your three differentials are so useful and necessary. “Why”, Discipline, Edge.

    Others will find their own works to say the same.

    For me, I give them expressions are: Purpose: Subservience to Purpose: Fitness for Purpose

    Thanks again Jeff for enabling me to give this some considered reflection! And let’s keep striving for a food secure world!!

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