The Lone Wolf Can Never Lead!

by | Sep 28, 2018 | Blog, Leadership


You will likely be placed in charge of a project, engagement, or team. If you act like a lone wolf instead of a true team leader, you will fail!

Loren’s Complaint

After a presentation, I was approached by a shy technologist. Loren had been recently promoted to the leader of a group of data analysts. Loren did not look happy when I said, “congratulations.”


Loren confessed, “I am struggling, and I need help.”


After conversing for a while, I learned that Loren is the Reluctant Leader™ prototype. The promotion to team leader came because Loren was the most technically qualified person for the role. However, this was Loren’s first leadership role and she had not been given any leadership training. Like many reluctant leaders, Loren was thrown in the deep end of the pool and told to swim. No one ever asks this person if they canswim. Because they have not had leadership experience, most reluctant leaders sink.


It is unfair yet happens all too often.


This article explains how I helped Loren become a leader that the team admired. My first task was to stop Loren from acting like a Lone Wolf.


Lone Wolf Syndrome

Often the emerging leader or inexperienced technical expert is put in charge of a project, engagement, or team. Yet s/he is not prepared! Many naively believe that they can oversee a team / project, but effectively leading a group means letting go of the belief that you must “DO IT ALL!”


If you are acting like a lone wolf, then you are not really leading. Being a lone wolf works in the wild, to help a wolf pack survive. This attitude does not work in today’s workplace because nearly every goal requires a team effort, with people cooperating and sharing. You can only be effective when people are there to support you and the whole team.


Today’s employee wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to feel part of a tribe, a posse, a family. A lone wolf mentality does not inspire those important culture norms. Acting like a lone wolf only causes others to behave like disconnected lone wolves.


My first goal with Loren was to provide the tools for success.


Set an Intention, a Purpose, and a Vision that Guarantees Focus

The good leader likes to reach the destination s/he sets. They enjoy the journey, but they enjoy the arrival more. Once a leader has a sight set on a goal, their focus and energy goes into overdrive to achieve it. They are relentless in their pursuit to get there, and we must be able to serve and enable them to our best ability.


All great leaders use specific tools to define the intention for their team and themselves. I shared three tools with Loren to help her show up as a team leader, and stop being the lone wolf.


The good leader does not like distractions because that hinders focusand momentum. That is often your primary role – removal of the trivial and/or the irrelevant. When leading your team, you must create an environment for team members to employ their strengths. To do this well you must have a purpose for yourself and your team that aligns with the corporate purpose.


1stTool: A Mission Is Your Leadership Purpose

The purpose is the overriding objective which we – the company or team – want to reach. A mission statement provides a deep and condensed understanding of the direction we should take. It is a definition of who we are and why we (the team) exists.


One crucial objective of the team’s purpose is to inspire others to successfully implement and execute goals and tasks.


With prompting, Loren wrote out a mission with the assistance of the team.

“We are the group that everyone can rely on for high quality and truthful analysis.”


Loren discovered that the group became very engaged on the process of writing this mission. Once they helped to write it, they bought into in. Soon it became everyone’s focus – deliver data and report that manager trusted.


By going through this step, Loren felt more connected to everyone on the team.


2nd Tool: A Vision Is Your Ideal Destination

After your mission is established, it is communicated through a written intention and a clearly defined vision.


Your clearly defined vision clarifies the intended future position or where you desire to end up because of carrying out the purpose. The vision inspires employees to reach for possibilities and make them realities.

Despite early misgivings, Loren shared a vision of what the team could look like and be like. They were surprised to learn that Loren believed automation would simplify the internal data collection process. This would free up employees to spend more time on analysis and competitive research. Up to that point, many on the team thought Loren was simply an introverted data wonk.


The level of enthusiasm to find automated tools soared as a result. Two members of the team volunteered to conduct the research for tools and report back with 60 days. Thanks to this vision, Loren’s team improved their productivity by more than 200%.


Loren’s group are now working together on a new team vision.


3rdTool: Leadership Intention is Your Conscious Choices

You have made many choices of how to live your life. These are known as your intentions. You have purposefully made these choices. To be a good leader, you need to know what your overall intention is and share it with those you work with.


Loren asked, “Where does leadership intention come from?”


The sources are many and arise from various parts of your life. One source is those things “hardwired” in the human species. Intention can come from those basic things that drive us, commonly known as our motivators. Intention may come from what you believe is your purpose or mission in life. Sometimes intention comes from your upbringing. Intention might come from the way you were treated as a child. Leadership intention is usually formed from bad and good experiences you had when working for someone. How you were treated affected how you felt about the leader, the organization and even the work. Often your leadership intention is connected to core values.


Whatever the source, every good leader has made a conscious choice of how to influence others. This choice is called your intention and it will deliver the results you see in your team.


I took Loren through some experiences to find an overriding leadership intention. It was difficult, because prior to this, Loren was clueless on what an intention was and how to understand this internal imperative.


The first draft was very telling. “I intend to be accurate all the time and know everything I can about a topic.”This internal urge explained why Loren spent so much time face down in her computer, which isolated her from others.


After much introspection (which Loren resisted at first), she shifted and rewrote it. Loren now sees leadership as an opportunity to: “teach data experts to become excellent analysts so they can spot and communicate trends with confidence and ease.”


These three tools worked for Loren to transform from a lone wolf to a real team leader. They will work for you too. When confusion or fatigue start to arise, the good leader reminds every one of the overriding purpose. The good leader recommunicates the uplifting vison.


With my help, Loren discovered that a good team leader:

  • Stays visible and doesn’t hide in their office or behind their technology.
  • Gets to know each employee as a unique individual to build a solid relationship of openness and trust.
  • Engages with his/her employees to assess their mood and understand their needs.
  • Meets with people face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball.
  • Defines standards for professional behaviors and communicates them clearly, explaining how the behaviors make the team successful.
  • Holds everyone on the team, including themselves, to these behavior standards.
  • Uses consensus for key decisions and solicits employee’s opinions and concerns when crafting solutions for a lingering problem.
  • Establishes the purpose of the group – the value you provide to others.
  • Develops and communicates their vision of what the team could look and be like.
  • Sets a leadership intention that is defines the sort of influence he/she wants to have on others.


The bottom line is this: A Lone Wolf Leader is unable build a cohesive and cooperative team. The Lone Wolf Leader encourages members of the team to act like love wolves. Soon you have no team – just a pack of wolves foraging for themselves.


Here is your inquiry for the next 24 hours:

What problems do you create when you are acting like a Lone Wolf?




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Ron Rael Leadership Provocateur, is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author.

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