Leadership: Is It Push or Pull?

By Mark Inboden

Do leaders “push” or “pull” people to achieve company results? If you answered both, I think you are taking the easy way out on this question.

While it is true that sometimes leaders push and pull people along, leadership is always about setting goals for the company or individuals to achieve. Leadership is about getting people to do things faster than they would do them on their own, and getting greater results than people might achieve on their own.

One example here at UCEC is in process improvement. We had a meeting last year where I set a goal of reducing our production time by 20 percent by the end of 2014. I wanted us to deliver our product that much quicker for our customers. I told my team that it was up to them to examine their areas and set goals that would ultimately contribute to this faster turn time. I knew that some areas had greater efficiencies to gain, and others less so, but overall, the company as a whole was tasked to reduce production time by 20 percent.

The “push” was me setting the goal; setting the “table” so to speak. The “pull” actually came from the dialogue that each department was having with one another about what changes they wanted to make, and how these changes could reduce production time.

Conversations took place all over the organization. Some of the “sacred cows” of “we have always done it this way” and “that’s my area and that process belongs here” were on the table. Focusing on the end goal allowed people to look at the entire process as a whole. Some areas rearranged their personnel structure. Some eliminated process steps. One area purchased a very expensive machine that is already paying big dividends in productivity gains. People “pulled” each other along towards process improvement and meeting our goal.

The end result now that we're closing in on the end of year? I am confident that we will meet and exceed our company goal.

As leaders, we should push out ambitious goals for people, so we are developing others who will push and know how to lead their teams in the future. By doing this, we set the table for the company to succeed in the long term. 

Mark is UCEC's President and Chief Executive Officer.