Micro Leadership, Macro Leadership

Macro leadership is impressive when it is done right. We remember the work of macro leaders. It is easy to equate all leadership action as macro leadership – because it is a leadership action that defines the bold actions of the enterprise.

Earn the right to be a leader who makes the big calls.


Is it daunting to consider yourself a leader? Perhaps you are judging yourself too harshly.  I think that all people have leadership talents within them; our work sometimes calls us to be a leader at a micro level, and at other times, someone calls us to be a leader at a macro level.  Good leaders work most of the time at the micro level; daily work is just not that glamorous and even leaders have to pay attention to the details. Nevertheless, when the leader steps into the macro role, and does good work, his or her reputation can become legendary.  Most of the time, leaders are taking care of the people, taking care of the details, and earning the right to be a leader who makes the big calls.

The Leader that Gets Headlines, The Leader Behind The Scene


Macro leadership is on display when we make strategic choices.  If we regularly think several steps ahead, look to the long horizon, and make important choices with the process frontier in mind, and then we are acting as macro leaders.  Macro leadership is impressive when it is done right. We remember the work of macro leaders. It is easy to equate all leadership action as macro leadership – because it is a leadership action that defines the bold actions of the enterprise.


Micro leadership is the realm of the day –to –day work of a good leader.  Leaders often work on humble projects and modest decision issues.  Some of the things that comprise micro leadership include listening to others, building relationships, and preparing for action. A great leader will attend to this work conscientiously, building his or her team and internal strengths.  Thank goodness that the work of a leader is not always at the macro level – not only would it get exhausting, but the leader needs the attention at the micro level to make sure the system is ready for rapid deployment.


Leaders are always building new leaders around them.  Leadership development begins at the micro level and will be tested at the macro level. New leaders spend some developmental time at the micro level before facing significant challenge.  The experienced leader must make it a priority, the work at the micro level, to coach and mentor emerging leaders.  Failure to do this could mean that the organization is unprepared for future changes.

The Good Is Not Always Urgent:  Leadership Skills Understood


Much of the work of a leader is shared with a good manager at the micro level.  Managers are concerned with conserving organization, keeping it running efficiently, and preventing future problems.  Good leaders do these things too!  However, leaders will prepare the organization for change, even at the micro level, and this work may not appear “urgent” or demanding priority; nevertheless there is much to do to change an organization, and it is not always obvious to the observer that this work helps to establish a bigger organizational change.  Some good managers may get involved with this micro level change effort as well – and they may be emerging as a leader in this part of their work.  In fact, there may not be much value in distinguishing between forward thinking managers and a leader working at the micro level.   Both the manager with leadership potential and the leader working at the micro level will be tested eventually at the macro level.  Until that watershed moment, both roles serve the future of an organization and a possible vision of the way forward.


At the micro level, we see leadership which is concerned with preparation, expression of the vision, and appreciation for talent around the leader. At the macro level, we understand the leader to be concerned with taking action, executing well and in a timely manner.  Micro work for leaders often involves the preparation for decisions by studying the context, assessing the people, and reviewing data. Preparing the mind for action is also an important part of a micro leadership as well. Macro leadership, by contrast, is the execution of decisions. When the leader is working at the macro level, he or she helps others to implement any changes. The world remembers macro leadership because it is visible and often leaves an indelible mark on memory. Only the followers and friends in the inside circle of the leader can see the micro level of leadership.


Keep in mind that the leader’s work is often not visible to observers. The micro world of leadership – quite different from micromanagement – is involved with preparing the mind, collecting data, assessing alternatives, and building relationships. We tend to notice when leaders translate their work into action, or when the leader gives a memorable speech. These are the macro functions. The macro function can change the world because the leader prepares the situation for action, and casual observers often miss that preparation. The world of leadership is like an iceberg, there is much that is not seen below the surface.

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Watch “Questions to Change Your Life” http://youtu.be/xCG3UjeOVAc

Posted In: Decisions, Influence, Leader, Leadership, Teamwork, Wisdom, Work
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