What Makes the Difference When Leading People

Man on top of mountain

Feeling decidedly cocky in the combat training and weapons technology of his troops against the Zulu “army”, Sir Henry Bartle Frere, the High Commissioner for Southern Africa, issued an incredibly unfair ultimatum to the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, on the 11 December 1878, with which the Zulu king could not possibly comply with, which was his plan all along.  So, when King Cetshwayo practically flipped Sir Frere a diplomatic “bird”, the High Commissioner ordered Lord Chelmsford to proceed with their planned attack on the lands of the Zulu King.

Chelmsford and Frere were so busy high fiving themselves on their dastardly plan for British domination that they didn’t bank on the downright craftiness and dogged determination of King Cetshwayo and his Zulu army and, they waaayyyy underestimated their sheer skills in battle, despite them being ridiculously outgunned (British rifles versus spears and shields made from cow hide).


“March slowly, attack at dawn and eat up the red soldiers” was the Zulu kings decree to his army.


On the 22 January 1879, the Battle of Isandlwana took place.  The Zulu army, after luring half of the British forces away from their camp, caught the British off guard and taught them a solid lesson on tactical warfare.  In fact, it was the single worst defeat of the British army by a technologically inferior opponent.  Not something Lord Chelmsford and his men were going to add to their resume, ever.

King Cetshwayo, for his efforts, walked away with not only the freedom for his nation but also almost 2000 draft animals, 130 wagons, 2 cannons, 100 rifles, 400,000 rounds of ammunition, tents, food, beer and probably a damn lot of tea leaves.  A great day in the office if you call fighting a war a good day.

King Cetshwayo was a king on a mission, driven by a single-minded goal, a single-minded passion to save his people against the British invaders, and, he was able to inspire his Zulu warriors to rally, despite them being hugely out-gunned by British weaponry, to come together to fight as one and save their lands.  He made an incredible difference to the lives of his army and his nation.


As I’ve said many times before and I’m sure you no doubt realise, Leadership is a massive responsibility and one that should never be taken lightly.  You are responsible for the people you lead and you, as the leader, should be making a positive difference in their lives each day, even if you’re not literally saving their lives like King Cetshwayo.  When you make a positive difference in the lives of the people you lead, you build trust and you build loyalty and they’ll follow you almost anywhere.

There are a number of factors that I believe that make a great, great difference when leading your people so let me explain.


Firstly, what makes the difference is knowing what you want, having a vision you are sold out to and, then dealing with your fear of failure while you attempt to achieve it.


What’s your vision?

Do you know what you want?

Do you know what’s driving you so you can lead your people with conviction and authenticity?

Do your people know the vision you have?

What do you fear?

What do your people fear?

What do you need to do to overcome these fears?


Immense passion is a vital leadership quality here too.  Leading people takes a great amount of energy and you need to be able to inspire the people you lead to sell out to your vision.  You must give them hope and a purpose for coming to work each day.  Half-hearted, luke-warm leadership isn’t motivating.  You get from your people what you give to them and if you want to achieve your vision, you need to make damn sure they know in their heads what the vision is and have it burning in their hearts to want to achieve it.


Do you have passion?

What do you need to be more passionate about?

Who doesn’t have passion in the team you lead?


I’m sure the Zulu King had many a sleepless night as he fought his fears of placing his army in the firing line of the British rifles.  However, he was able to face them head on, develop a strategically brilliant plan and make his army believe in it and themselves, to carry the vision through to fruition, despite the obvious risks.  I wish I was there to hear the Zulu kings impassioned speech to his men before battle!!  The air would have been positively electric!


The people you surround yourself with will also make a difference.

You can’t build anything great on your own and your success as a leader will be determined by the people you choose to surround yourself with.


Who’s closest to you?

What sort of team do you have around you – are they A-graders? Are they excited for your vision? Are they trustworthy? Are they effective?

Who’s the weak link?

What do you need to do to grow and strengthen your team?


Iron sharpens iron and the same goes for your team.  A team of high performing people build momentum together, continually lifting each other’s performance.


I know I say this in almost every blog, but being led will make a big, big difference to your leadership, the people you lead and your to your life.

Nobody has all the answers and if you truly want to be an authentic leader and grow in leadership, and have the authenticity to lead others, first you must allow yourself to be led.

Between 1992 and 2013, I was led by a great leader and global entrepreneur before he passed, and it was a game changer for me in all areas of my life.  It made a huge difference.


Who is leading you and making a difference in your life?

Are you being led?

Who are you leading?

Who makes you accountable to your own leadership behaviours?

Who makes you accountable to your vision?


Changing the way you think will make the difference (and being led is extremely effective here……).  If you continue to think the same way, you’ll always continue to get the same results.  What holds people back in life is the way they think about themselves and how they think about others.  The greatest gift you can give another human being is to change the way they think, which will change the way they behave, and will ultimately make a difference in the results they want to achieve in their life and in their business.


What do you need to have better thinking about?

What thinking is holding you back from achieving your vision?

Who in the team that you lead needs better thinking?


Leadership is all about your behaviours. Highly effective leadership is having the discipline and focus on the right behaviours to ultimately strengthen your leadership effectiveness, and, the way you behave is driven by the way you think.


What behaviours must you grow that require a change in your thinking?


Getting uncomfortable will make the difference. When you push and stretch yourself until you’re uncomfortable is when the real growth happens and you start to become the best version of yourself and the best leader you can be to achieve your vision and to make an impact on those you lead.  Don’t settle for a holding pattern!


What do you need to get uncomfortable about?

Who leads you to stimulate and agitate your thinking to make you uncomfortable so you’ll change behaviours to become more effective as the leader?


Personal growth requires personal change.


What must you change?

Where must you grow?

Are you the kind of person who people want to follow?

Are you teachable?  (Nobody has all the answers.)


 And lastly for today, recognising the right people makes an enormous difference. What get recognised gets done. People are driven by recognition.  People want significance and people want respect. My mentor Jim told me in 1992 “What gets rewarded gets done”.  It’s human nature.  We’ll do what gets noticed and has some kind of prize associated with it when it’s achieved.  Even my puppies do this!

Your people are driven by more than a salary package.  They want to know if what they do for you is valued and appreciated – after all they spend a majority of their week doing it and for many, it defines who they are as a person. Remember when you were at school and you were awarded a certificate at assembly for an achievement or a special sticker on your homework that you’d tried really hard on?  Deep down, none of us have changed at our core, we all LOVE to be recognised for a job well done – it makes us feel special and valued and it fuels us on to keep performing.  If you bypass this vital leadership aspect or you don’t fully commit to rewarding and respectfully recognising your people, you’re doing yourself and your team a dis-service and you’ll seriously limit the potential of your team and seriously limit your potential as a leader to achieve the vision.


Who do you need to recognise? How?

Who needs to feel that you care for them?

Who must you show more respect to?

How could you better reward your team?


I trust that today’s article has given you some food for thought on how you can make a real difference when leading your team.  Leadership is a huge responsibility and you as the leader should make a positive difference in the lives of the people you lead.  I hope you can take some time to really think about where you’re at and where you could build your leadership effectiveness.


Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

I trust my articles can play a part in helping you grow your Leadership strength to live a better life!


Peter (Coxey)

I talk further about conviction in my book, “The Dream Is Everything”.
If you’d like to receive a FREE e-copy, (RRP $24.95), click here.


Some other articles I’ve written you might find useful:

Do You Have a Henry on Your Team Who Could Disrupt Unity?

Just Because You Have Trust Today Doesn’t Mean You’ll Have Trust Tomorrow



The Battle of Isandlwana


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