On Leadership and the Knucklehearted Leader

On-Leadership-and-the-Knucklehearted-Leader-Tom-SchulteIn the fast and furious pace of business and life today, motivated people are constantly looking for betters ways to get things done. People are looking for solutions in technology, in personal and professional training, and in seeking shortcuts to help get more done in less time.

So what is driving results?

Getting Stuff Done

For anyone who is responsible for getting things done through other people, one of the most important things to remember is that you are getting things done THROUGH OTHER PEOPLE. This means that to be effective with living breathing people, you have to be considerate of what drives them.

You have to take into account that they come to you with personal lives, problems, heartaches, struggles, habits and crazy families. You must lead people toward your goals and mission knowing that each and every one of the people you lead are different. And this means that they have different personal drivers.

So to know that you have to get stuff done through other people, it makes sense that you are familiar with each person’s emotional drivers. This is at the core of emotional intelligence. Knowing your people as individuals will help you help them to align their drivers to your goals and help when difficult situations arise.

Personal Core Values

So what is really driving your results?

Values drive decisions. Decisions drive behaviors. Behaviors drive results.” ~ Tom Schulte Tweet this!

Take a look at what you value the most in life. And when I say “life,” I mean your WHOLE life that includes what you value at;

  • Home life
  • Work life
  • Recreational life
  • Spiritual life
  • Emotional life

For the sake of an example, let’s say that you, the leader, have established your top values as accountabilityfamilycareerrecognitionfaith, and independence. Well, imagine if you where asked to do some task by your boss that would have you undermine or have you be in direct conflict with your top values. how would you feel? And then imagine if this kept happening to you. And no matter what you did in protest, it kept happening. You had to continually compromise your values structure.

For most people, they would end up leaving this place to get into a better environment where they could have harmony with what is important to them. And most people would characterize their former boss as a #$%#!! They would think of them as a terrible leader who carries no amount of influence with them. Although this former boss may be plenty smart, they would come across as mean, cold and uncaring.

These are what I call Knucklehearted Leaders. They seemingly have a hardened heart toward the people they lead.

True Influence

So for you to keep from being perceived as a knucklehearted leader, you have to understand that your top values are not the same as virtually anyone else’s. And if some of your values seem to match or align with other around you, the meanings you give to those values can be quite different. You have to know the people you lead so that you can try not to violate something deeply personal to them.

So asking someone to violate THEIR values is the exact same as someone asking you to violate your values. It’s unattractive and resentful.

On the contrary, think how attractive and influential a boss would be if they took the time to understand you and allow you to openly discuss your personal values in context with the work you do. For most people, an “understanding” boss who respects and honors you values would be a dream come true.

So to be the most influential  leader you can be, know your people and what drives them.

After all, this is what is truly getting you your results.

So, what is driving your leadership? Do you take into account the personal drivers of the people you lead? Or are you a knucklehearted leader who is self-absorbed? What can you do to learn and care more about the values of the people you lead? I would love to hear your thoughts!


About Tom Schulte


  1. You are singing my song about values. We lead through our own lens and when I take the time to do values and other Assessments with my teams, the more I learn about how to best lead them according to their motivations and preferences!. Great insights. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I used to be a knucklehearted leader. My stubbornness and ‘no retreat’ attitude branded me as unapproachable and distant. After a lot of soul-searching, I realized that this was a very selfish stance. For me to grow in leadership, I had to accept that other people had values that they guarded closely. It brought transformation not only to my relationships, but also to my stress levels. Working with and through others has become easier. I especially love your quote “So to be the most influential leader you can be, know your people and what drives them.” Thanks for sharing…

  3. Well said Tom! There is a concept that is a bit pretentious but makes a lot of sense to me. It’s called, I believe, ‘the extraordinisation of the mundane’.

    A good example for me was the great retailer who used to lead Marks & Spencer when I worked for them – Lord Sieff. When he visited a store, after giving managers like me a good going over and a hard time, he always visted every corner of the store, making a point of speaking to the cleaner, the warehouse assistant, the driver, etc. For him, the one minute he sent giving them undiluted attention was relatively mundane in his day. For them it was extraordinary.

    And they loved him for it, ad would have followed him anywhere! Sadly, he was replaced by a few arrogant knucklehearts who didn’t understand the message in your post. And the company went into the doldrums for many years, from where it is still struggling to escape.

    Thanks for reminding me!

    Warm wishes, David

  4. Tom ~ you identify what is core to me in my approach ~ a focus on values ~ and the importance placed upon them within any team of which I am a part. Values, however, need to be regularly reviewed, not necessarily changed, to keep them at the forefront of people’s minds. Unfortunately, in my practice, I come across too many teams who believe they have them, but last checked this out long ago!

    This is why I believe so many organisations suffer from malaise ~ a focus on the results and the $s, rather than a focus on the people and shared values! That’s why I really liked your mantra ~ “Values drive decisions. Decisions drive behaviors. Behaviors drive results.”

  5. Well, it’s true. If you own the company, your core value as owner may be making a profit and being successful. You may value having satisfied employees who stick around, but it will be a secondary value.

    Your employees’ values may include doing a good job for you, but their PRIMARY value is earning enough so they are comfortable and not struggling to pay bills. Most would probably say their home life is more important than work. Most people work to live, not live to work.

    An employee certainly would value highly a decent place to work, where their bosses recognize their talents and compensate them for them. And many have good work ethics and WANT to put in their best efforts at all times. But the job may always be of lesser importance than their family and friends. No one may openly say this to his bosses, but it will be there.

  6. When one loses sight of these ideals and life has other tasks at hand too be performed where political correctness just dosen’t cut.it. Thank you Tom for the needful reminder.

  7. Well written! Great post!

    Kind regards,
    Ogwo David.

  8. Great post Tom. I have seen first hand, exactly what you describe in this post. Leaders that spend so much effort on what they have accomplished and put very little into who they are or who they are willing to become. The more self-confident and aware we become as leaders, the more we are able to freely shift the focus onto others.


  1. […] Finally, their behavior was guided by some common values or standards that were known to all of them. The soldiers were a team, and at that particular moment, they had to work as one to efficiently board onto the aircraft. The same applies to your followers. You must provide the leadership that embeds a value-system your team subscribes to. In addition, “to be the most influential  leader you can be, know your people and what drives them,” notes Tom Schulte in On Leadership and the Knucklehearted Leader […]