Consulting vs. Leading

Too many consultants tank their success because they do not clearly understand the difference between consulting vs. leading. Consulting is a defined role that is distinct from leadership. A consultant is one who helps a leader by framing the problems that the leader is accountable for solving. Consultants frame the challenges and help provide a roadmap for resolution of challenges. Leaders oversee the implementation of solutions and ensure sustainability.

The first key of being an effective consultant is learning how to position your expertise in a way that enhances leadership and organizational capacity. When you don't fully appreciate the value you create as a consultant (and how you should be positioned) you inevitable fall into the "pair of hands trap" (where you simply offer and deliver what a client asks of your) or the "surrogate leadership trap" (where you you do the leader's work for them.)

When you know the differences between leading and consulting, you will be able to position yourself for maximum value. You will:

  • Be seen as a strategic partner to solve business performance issues
  • Provide an independent, outside perspective
  • Leverage your entire self and expertise in the best way possible

Best Practice: Care…but not that much. When you set up expectations with a new client, be sure to clarify your role in enabling them to solve their challenges. Never put yourself in a situation where you get too overly invested in the client’s success. When you find yourself working harder than your client, stop and pause to see if you inadvertently have taken on a surrogate leadership role and re-clarify roles and responsibilities. Always keep the benefit of being a strategic business partner in your mind and know in your heart that it is their best interest to take full ownership of solving their challenges.


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