Default Leadership: The Presumptuous Leader


The “presumptuous leader” sounds like an oxymoron. Well, it actually is one! Leaders who are presumptions think of themselves a little higher than they actually are and think they know more than others. Allow me a short illustration:

I was recently promoted to a new position and took hold of my new branch which had a lot of potential for growth and profit. However, after a quick appraisal of the store’s metrics I soon discovered the store also had some areas that required immediate attention and improvement – most noticeably its leadership presence. This particular branch had been on the decline for some months with the present management who was feeling the pressure from top brass concerning some alarming numbers. During my first few days in the office, my objective was to get to know my team members by simply interacting with them and observing how they worked with each other, but most importantly how they perceived me as their new leader. On the onset I detected some resistance from the store manager, the second in command. At first he was a little distant, cold and “short” with me. One time, during a brief interview, he must have presumed we were done with the conversation, so he got up and walked away. I sat on my seat stunned thinking, “Does this guy have any social skills?” Over a period of two weeks, I knew I had a lot more to work on than getting the store to operate at peak performance. I needed to groom my store manager with the right leadership skills for personal, team and corporate success. Throughout my interactions with the store manager I soon found three default characteristics of a presumptuous leader:

1. Previous work experience does not add up to competent leadership

After spending some time with my store manager, I noticed how he would keep bringing up his previous employment experience, “In my previous job I supervised fifty employees.” And the time I asked him to do the schedule he made a point to say, “It’s easy, doing a schedule for four people is nothing compared to what I used to do.” My first thought, “Wow, I have a great leader working with me. We are going to turn this store around quicker than I first anticipated.” Soon enough, within a matter of days, I noticed the incompetence surface. He lacked the basic skills of supervision, delegating responsibility and holding his direct reports accountable for their work performance. My initial thought was, “Now, how did this guy get to a position where he supervised fifty people?” It just didn’t add up.

2. Layered expectations is a form of controlling others not leading them

There’s nothing more I dislike than someone saying, “They are not allowed to do that!”, or something similar, “The previous boss would only let me do that.” After a few comments like these I had to put a stop to that kind of managerial thinking. In a learning environment managers must relinquish some control and trust others to learn and do the job. After all, we must advance not only the agenda of the organization but also employees to their next level of operation. So I asked myself, “Where did he get this learning?” After some brief dialogue, it was the previous General Manager who would not allow certain people to do some basic things, such as count the cash drawer upon opening or closing the store. My style of training is a “cross-trainer” approach where everyone gets to participate and learn a new aspect of the operation. This happens gradually when someone is willing and ready to learn the next new thing. A working environment must be empowering not controlling others based upon one’s position or title.

3. Leading from behind is not authentic leadership

After a week or so I noticed the store manager was not leading his direct reports properly. So I asked him, “How do you lead your team?” He responded, “Oh, they already know what to do. I just let them do it.” I then asked, “How do you know they are accomplishing tasks on time and being effective in their jobs?” He just stared at me. His style of leadership was laissez-faire, from a French term meaning laid-back leadership. When I questioned his style of leadership he simply replied, “I’ve always done it that way.” Presumption – yes or no? As a leader, you have to engage your direct reports with vision and responsibility, and responsibility with accountability, and timed tasks that are measured by effective performance and results.

What did I learn in the first two weeks of this encounter? First, I learned that the more someone is “experienced” the harder they are to train, because “they just seem to know so much” more than you. Employees who brag about their previous work experience must embrace new learning experiences. Second, bringing correction to a leader who seems to “know it all” is difficult to do but it’s a must. A leader must have the courage to have transparent and regular discussions. What kind of discussions? The one’s where you tell your direct report to “push the refresh button” and to start all over by learning how to lead effectively.


The Value of a “Pause”

I am sure you can come up with a catalog of stories when you failed to pause for a few moments before formulating the right response when addressing your parents, a teacher, even your boss. Even right now you are being reminded of a “stupid remark” you wish you could take back but you can’t; it’s been released into the atmosphere, received by another party and adjudicated as a flaw in your character. This failure is often times attributed to a lack of “pause” before we speak and act. Even a series of inappropriate comments and actions can ruin a person’s reputation, which will take time to mend. Pause is crucial for life or anyone desiring more of a leadership role. defines pause as a temporary stop or rest, especially in speech or action, or a cessation of activity because of doubt or uncertainty; a momentary hesitation. Let’s take the term a little further to add that a “pause” has a reason more than just a momentary lapse. A pause is crucial because it gives you an opportunity to stop and think intently to capture wisdom before you speak or engage in a certain behavior.

The discipline of a pause is crucial for anyone desiring collegial respect. I am sure you have been in those meetings when your boss is addressing a critical organizational issue, and afterward, with penetrating eyes he or she looks around the room mining for someone’s wisdom. If wisdom does not come forthrightly you feel the pressure to speak the first thing that comes to your mind. Pause, therefore, is difficult to come by because we are accustomed to burst out a response even if it’s the wrong one. Fast is not always better; it’s imperative for you to take a moment to pause and reflect to gain a much deeper insight about the issue at hand. Pause allows you to…

Capture wisdom’s extremes
In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, specifically in the book of Psalms, the term Selah usually appears after a sentence or paragraph. For instance, Psalm 4:4 notes: “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah.” The word Selah is a technical musical term probably showing accentuation, pause, and interruption; silence.[i] A simple yet succinct explanation comes from an article written by Tony Warren called What Does Selah Mean? Warren notes, “Selah, [celah], is from the primary Hebrew root word [calah] which literally means ‘to hang,’ and by implication to measure (weigh). This is readily understood because in Biblical history, money, food and other valuables were ‘weighed’ by hanging or suspending them on a type of balance (the equivalent of our measuring scale) to determine their value.”[ii]

So one can deduct from Warren’s research that Selah is taking a momentary pause to weigh and measure something that is said to determine its worth, and the perceived measured outcome if adopted in life. The purpose of Selah is to draw out and capture the extremes of wisdom before we speak or act on something so that we gain an advantage from its ultimate value. This is a perfect example of a pause at work.

Speak profoundly
James, the sage of age in the first century, reminds us in his epistle to “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” He has reasons for this time-tested axiom. If we follow his advice we should be better equipped to walk in success. To be profound is to say something that is extraordinary; not like the conventional wisdom of this world. A pause allows a person access into another realm of thought and insight where one can unearth gems yet undiscovered; a place where wisdom abides and awaits to be captured. Have you ever heard someone speak and wonder where he or she got his or her wisdom? People who are insightful take the time to ponder, meditate, and excavate for deeper insights.

So the next time you consider blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind, think again for a short period of time. A website states the following, “It only takes a minute to change your life. That’s a one-minute pause, 60 seconds to stop, think and consider the impact of your actions. A pause is a delay, a breather, a suspended reaction. A pause is about finding time to get the facts, and using those facts, not impulses, to help make decisions.” Pause, therefore, is not a difficult process but simply taking an extra minute to step back, think and to go deeper. For the end purpose of a “pause” is to gain critical insight so one can speak profound sayings using only a few words. – Selah

What can you do to improve your “pause”?

1. Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for celah (Strong’s 5542)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 1 Mar 2010. < http://
Strongs=H5542&t=NKJV >
2. What Does Selah Mean by Tony Warren., Accessed on March 1, 2010.
3. Pause:

Wisdom Intelligence

Part I of a Four Part Series:

Wisdom, as a form of intelligence, is so needed in today’s world. Wisdom Intelligence is having a deep understanding of the reality of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act accordingly to produce optimum results. Isn’t everyone looking for optimum outcomes from their personal choices? I would think so! You can have these results but first you must understand the two roads of wisdom. Wisdom has two roads; a long and short road, meaning that wisdom is gained by experience (the long road) or it can be given instantly from above (the short road). In terms of “long road” wisdom, young people have a limitation in this area due to their age and abilities to think critically unless they learn to tap into the wisdom that is given instantly from above. This makes sense since the Greeks viewed wisdom as being horizontal, an asset to be gained by experience, and they also viewed it as a vertical asset, something acquired instantly from a higher source. Athena, for instance, was considered the god of wisdom for the Greeks. They believed Athena and other gods could hand down wisdom if humans asked for it. Christians also believe this is possible. According to James 1:2,

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Wisdom is crucial to help people discern what’s emerging in front of them, to uncover options and suspend them for a moment before making the crucial decision so they can navigate through difficult life and social situations to gain a personal advantage.

How do you gain wisdom? Do you seek it out or does it seek you out? What’s your W.Q. look like?