Micro-Initiatives: D.O.D. of Great Leadership

Here is another of the 108 strategies from Leading with Emotional Intelligence. Discovering the “degree of difference” (D.O.D.) between good and great leadership has been the focus of many writers. Goleman, Boyatzis, and the Hay Group use the term tipping point to describe the behaviors that tip or move a performer into the top 10%. Using your strengths more in a disciplined fashion is the first strategy to improve performance.

In working with organizations and executives, I have found the D.O.D. is made up of doing many small things regularly. I call these “micro-initiatives.” They don’t take a lot of time but are crucial habits for great leaders. The average or good leaders could do them but don’t, as they are often neglected and given lower priority. Zenger and Folkman found that doing five things really well put a leader in the top 10%. Micro-initiatives make a major impact. Or:


In cycling races or track meets the difference between the winners and the placer can be fractions of a second. Great leaders have a series of actions that separate them from the pack that take as little as 10 seconds and as long as 45 minutes to a few hours. They make the time to do these “micro-initiatives” to foster development for themselves and others. When I coach executives, I often talk about just how long these actions take because the first response of a busy leader is “I just don’t have time.” When we are talking about just how little time it actually takes to do these micro-initiatives, they usually agree that time isn’t the real issue. What is required is commitment and discipline.

Below are a couple of examples of the “degree of difference” in time and action that separates the great leader from the good leader:

Average to good leader gives feedback:

“Mary, thanks for getting the report to me.”

Time = 3 seconds.

Great leader gives feedback:

“Mary, terrific job on the report BECAUSE it was well-written. I appreciate that you checked in with me during the process. I liked how you collaborated with others on it. It will make us and you look great in the customers’ eyes, thanks.”

Time = 12 seconds.

Average to good leader on relationships:

Works in his or her office on a project and then takes a break. On the way to the bathroom, nods at a few people and walks past some without even looking. Heads right back to the computer.

Time = 2 minutes each time.

Great leader on relationships:

Takes a break and stops at several people’s cubicle to check on how they are doing. Asks about the projects they are working on and inquires about any issues or challenges they are having. The leader then asks, using the person’s name, how his or her sick spouse is doing and thanks the person for volunteering for a new task. At other times during the day the leader connects in a similar way.

Time = 5 minutes each time.

Action: Try out one of these or other micro-initiatives. As you can see, you can demonstrate your emotional intelligence in a few moments.

Can you go from good to great?