Character & Mental Toughness- Gray/Grey Area Leadership

Gray or Grey? Even the spelling of the word is a gray/grey area. Apparently both are acceptable. You would think the nomenclature has to do with a shade of color between black and white, but I’m not so sure about this. I think the difference has more to do with indecisiveness and the inevitable lack of commitment; grey/gray.

Now I like dogs, and for me that is enough to make my own personal decision and commitment on this. So I will choose grey as in greyhound. However, I do believe in tolerance, so please feel free to be as gray as you want and know that I will accept you for who you are.

Now that I have had my fun, let’s get down to the purpose of this piece. You can’t lead from a grey area. You can effectively manage from a grey area, but you can’t lead others or yourself. Grey means getting by, not getting better.

Leaders are black or white. They are decisive. They are committed. They follow through and make sure those they lead are accountable. Flexible black and white leaders will of course make adjustments along the way; but these adjustments are definitive as they directly relate to reaching the spoken goal.

Black and white leadership keeps the followers in mind. With a black and white leader you understand your goal and your role, and this makes it easier to commit to the vision. Because the vision is so clear, the leader so dependable, followers can make independent decisions. Followers trust that the leader will not change course, so they commit and act with the goal in mind. Black and white leadership allows all parties to envision success and accountability. All parties will do whatever is necessary to achieve the goal. Efficiency, initiative and diligence are enhanced by black and white leadership.

Some in authority try to lead from a grey area. Grey leaders are indecisive. They do not follow through. They frequently change course when adversity or inconvenience are encountered. Followers have no idea where they stand or which direction they should go in. Grey leaders kill initiative because followers do not want to act if their actions will be irrelevant or unwise as the grey leader again changes direction. Grey leaders are not committed. They want things done, but they lack the resolve to follow through, to take a stand, to be held accountable. Grey leaders’ sails are powered by the winds of political expedience as they navigate the path of least resistance; be it sometimes black, or sometimes white. Grey leaders stay afloat, but that’s it. Grey leaders practice short term thinking that often is counter to accepted goals.

As in all things, there lies a good and a bad. The benefit of being a grey leader is that you seldom have anyone develop a negative view of you. The drawback of grey leadership, is that it seldom leads to notable achievement. It simply makes progress unsustainable.

Choosing to be grey and preferring grey leadership are natural sorts of self preservation. People want to play it safe. They want to be secure. They want to avoid conflict. So they embrace and practice grey leadership. The only people who truly despise grey leadership are the people who aspire to progress and have the courage to endure the inevitable friction to achieve goals.

The black and white leader has the courage to risk and the mental toughness to endure. The black and white leader can fail, and fail miserably; but he can also attain greatness, which is something only fortune of circumstance can award a grey leader. The black and white leader can be despised; there are prices to pay for the mandatory decisiveness and accountability necessary to reach goals.

Now imagine if I had alternated between grey and gray throughout this piece. If that would have annoyed you, you are a black and white person. Now imagine if you had written this piece and had to submit it to two people who hold you accountable. The first you know prefers gray, so you changed every word to gray. The second prefers grey so you now change the word to grey. If this is your modus operandi you are a grey person. I will also add that if you are sometimes black and white and at other times grey, you are also a grey person.

With grey leadership, every experience is cloudy. This grey/gray is not character nor mental toughness. It is evidence of the enemies of character, particularly justification and apathy. Grey leadership lacks commitment and heart.

If you truly want to accomplish notable personal or organizational goals, start thinking and acting in a black and white manner. Be decisive. Follow through. Commit the resources necessary to achieve the goal. Have the courage to accept the inevitable costs of progress.

I try to practice black and white leadership. I set a goal to make this piece readable and memorable. I made a decision to go with grey. I showed a little courage as this may have been unpopular. I made the commitment and I followed through. Hopefully I achieved my goal and the picture is not fuzzy but clear.

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About coachbillmoore

Educator/Author/Speaker/HS & NCAA Coach Character Coach Read Coach Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness” Paperback available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. "The measure of your character and mental toughness is the space between what you are doing and what you could be doing." -Coach Bill Moore
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