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All Leaders Need a Playbook: Here’s How to Build Yours


Mon Jun 26 2023

All Leaders Need a Playbook: Here’s How to Build Yours

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We all know a leader doesn’t simply show up. An intentional leader leads (of course), coaches, and ensures alignment with the rest of the organization. They do so consistently, confidently, and with fearless authenticity—no small task. That’s why it’s so important for leaders at all levels of the organization to build up a leadership playbook to help establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) for effective leadership.

A leadership playbook ensures you remain consistent in your leadership so every single time you show up, your team knows they can rely on you regardless of what may be happening around you.


What Is a Leadership Playbook?

A leadership playbook is an essential tool for any successful leader. It provides them with guidelines to use when confronting changes. This includes everything from how and when to manage difficult conversations, best practices when providing feedback, driving accountability, and maintaining stakeholder relationships. Most critically, a leadership playbook ensures the work is tethered to the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.

Having a leadership playbook ensures your decisions are informed and well-thought-out while, at the same time, keeping up with the pace of today’s business world. It also allows leaders to show up confidently while allowing them to bring their unique authenticity into the equation.

How to Craft Your Leadership Playbook

Crafting a leadership playbook doesn’t have to be overwhelming or daunting! Here are some tips on how to start yours today:

Write down all the leadership activities you carry out. This may include anything from contributing to project and team management to whatever you do to remain aligned on your strategic priorities.

Think about what strategies you use when tackling these tasks. For example, if providing feedback is one of your typical tasks, then consider what strategies you use when providing feedback, such as giving honest but constructive criticism. Write these strategies down too! Consider when you should lead (inspire with a vision), manage (direct performance), and coach (pull potential).


Organize all this information into an easy-to-reference document. Keep it simple—use bullets if needed! This document should include sections for each meaningful activity that you typically handle as a leader, along with specific steps and guidelines so anyone can quickly reference and share this document if needed.

Consider some “acts of leading” that don’t come as naturally to you or that you would like to develop. Are there others in your ecosystem demonstrating this leadership skill well? Seek out what their leadership SOP is and see if there is anything you can try and adopt into your playbook.

Your leadership SOPs should be formal enough to give you the muscle to fall back on while remaining flexible enough to allow you to be agile to current conditions, for example:

  • "Every time I start the hiring process, I make sure to partner with HR to write inclusive job descriptions and read resumes without names on them to mitigate the risk of unconscious bias.”

  • “Once a month, I dedicate one of my one-on-ones with each of my direct reports to having a career coaching and development conversation.”

  • "At the beginning of every fiscal year, I block 30 minutes to review my team’s strategy/mission/vision/values and update it based on the changes that happened over the prior year.”

Crafting their own leadership playbook will give them a roadmap to confidence, consistent leadership, and fearless authenticity within a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment. Encourage your own developing leaders to structure and operationalize their leadership by crafting a leadership playbook.

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