Ep 129: Leadership Vs. The Performance Of Leadership

The world of leadership is focused on its performance. In this episode, Adam Quiney talks about the distinction between leadership and the performance of leadership and how each impacts you as a leader. Learn to do leadership right as Adam dives into the importance of being in the moment and what really matters as a leader. He also shares what leaders are called for to lead and the resistance that usually arises from these. Tune in and become the best leader you can be. 

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Leadership Vs. The Performance Of Leadership 

These are conversations in service of causing and creating leadership. I was going to say I want to keep pounding on this point. I started to ask myself if that’s an empowering context for me to bring to the conversation and for you to read the conversation. What I mean is I want to keep drawing us back to a context for these conversations, which is that leadership only ever exists in the moment. Anytime someone wants to point to their past as evidence of leadership in defense of what they’re doing in the moment, they’re often missing the point. Leadership exists in the moment because the moment is all that matters. It’s all that we have. The moment is when we push beyond our edge. People often want to come on a show like this, or you can read many shows like this where people will share their vulnerable story with you.  

They’ll get vulnerable.” They’ll get on the podcast. They’ll talk about that time that things went rough. The trouble with this is that that was that time back then and now things aren’t rough. They will get vulnerable, but it’s not vulnerable because they already know where this is going to go. They’re telling a story and that’s really the content for this episode. We’re going to be talking about the performance of leadership as opposed to leadership. Before we go there, I want to make an invitation for you to come and check out the Creating Clients Course. We are just about finishing up. We’re getting towards the end of our current iteration. I cannot speak enough about this course. If you are a regular reader of this show, you probably feel that you might feel that it’s the opposite.  

Leadership only ever exists in the moment. Share on X

I want to make sure that I convey the opportunity that this is the possibility that’s available here. If you were in any business where you were generating some clientele, you are creating value in the world, or you want to create value in the world and you want to enroll people in stuff. This course is the course for you. Most people become entrepreneurs. They love what they get to do, and they hate the part where they have to sell. At best, they find one of two workarounds. One is that they find a way to do what they do. In-house so that the company provides the clients and they don’t have to sell. The other one is they stay as an entrepreneur and they figure out how to run scripts and get really good at funnels and all of that stuff.  

They can do the selling thing as best as possible, and then they’re

effective at doing it, but who they’re being underneath it is that it’s not really something that brings them joy. It doesn’t have to be that way. This course creates the transformation required for you to fall in love with this, not for you to fall in love with it, the way you currently relate to it. If you were like, I’ve got this husband and he’s really ugly. I hate the way he looks, but if I could just fall in love with his ugly face, that would be perfect. Pardon for the terrible example, but that’s what most people are trying to do. They’re trying to fall in love with this person with an ugly face.  

What this course does is it rearranges the way you relate to the entire process of creating clients, such that when we’re finished, there is no ugly face. The conversation about how do I fall in love with this ugly face is meaningless because you actually discover the beauty that’s available. What that looks like in practice is that you will fall deeply in love with the process of creating clients, of serving people, of connecting with human beings, of being fascinated by the possibility that is available in people’s lives. We do that all in ten weeks. It’s a transformative process. The course really makes a profound difference in the lives of the people that go through it. Don’t miss out. It’s a very low cost to entry. It’s a mere $1,000 US, and you can find more about it by going to AdamQuiney.com/ClientCreation. 

Let’s talk about leadership as opposed to the performance of leadership. So much of the world of leadership is focused on its performance. This includes all leadership where the aim is to do it right, to be inspiring, to look good and many other approaches. We’re going to talk about the distinction between leading versus performing leadership. We’ll look at why this is so subtle and how our egos job is to keep us the very best of intentions in the performance of leadership. The reason this is a challenge in the first place is that most of us want to do leadership. As you step further and further up into the ranks of leadership, meaning you’re owning more in the world, you’re responsible for more and you are causing more. The stakes get higher, at least as far as your ego is concerned, to do leadership more.  

You have a vested interest in not looking dumb, not doing it wrong because you have more people watching you because there’s more stakes on the table. The irony is that the higher up, the more you are leading, the more likely you are to turn towards the performance of leadership. Leadership is in the moment. It’s creating whatever we’re committed to and being able to bring whatever it is necessary to bring so as to create that thing we’re committed to. If you were committed to sowing hatred in the world, I know this is a weird example, but stay with me, your job as leader would be to bring whatever is required to sow hatred in the moment. If you had a good heart or if you were like, I don’t want to make people feel bad,” that would be where your edge as leader would be in that moment.  

GL 129 | The Performance Of Leadership

The Performance Of Leadership: Leadership is about creating a particular type of result and being able to do and be whatever is required in the moment to create that result.


That’s a bit of a weird example, but I use that intentionally because it shows you that leadership is not a normative thing. It is not a morally based thing. Leadership is not about doing what’s right or what’s wrong because those are concepts that are made up by individuals. We collectively have agreed on certain parts of those concepts, but I want to remove that from the conversation about leadership. Leadership is about creating a particular type of result and being able to do and be whatever is required in the moment to create that result or to move us towards that result.  

Let’s get away from the crappy sewing hatred because that’s not what we’re about. It’s presumably not well you’re about. Nevertheless, there are going to be moments where, what is called for, from you as a leader, you will have resistance to, and we’re going to work with a really simple example, which is vulnerability. Let’s say that we have a coach and the coach wants to create more clients. As a leader, they’re committed to creating more clients. Their clients are avoiding a conversation about money. Their clients are afraid of money. They’ve got stories that they don’t have enough money, so they don’t want to invest in this coach. Coach is trying to tell them“Just spend money,” or they’re trying to get them over that hurdle. What is often called for in these moments is that the coach be willing to share with the client, their own issues and hurdles and struggles with money to get vulnerable, that client, to put that into the space, instead of said, we don’t go there because it feels edgy. It feels scary. We don’t want to lean into our fear.  

What if the client says no? What if the clients say we suck? What if the clients said, “Why would I do this with you? The thing we don’t realize is that’s already in the space to begin with. The thing we’re afraid the person will say, it’s already there. It’s just unspoken. This is how our fear tends to work. As long as I don’t look at it, I’ll be okay. If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t talk about the big elephant in the room, we’ll just collectively agree to walk around it in a circle and it will be okay. This is antithetical to leadership. Leadership is about speaking to what’s there in the moment to leaning over the edge, the performance of leadership is about doing leadership right. It’s about giving the illusion that we’re leaning over edge while simultaneously saying safe.  

The performance of leadership is about doing leadership right. Share on X

This is why there are so many books written about how to do leadership. There are so many books that are ultimately trying to give you the set of rules to follow. There are many books about how to have a powerful conversation with someone or how to have bold conversations or how to do it rightWe crave that because it gives us an answer. It saves us from having to be in the moment. It takes us off the hook from having to put ourselves at risk. If there is no risk, there’s likely no leadership. There’s likely only management. There is the performance of leadership. It’s why people often want to come onto a podcast and share you that story like we were talking earlier. It’s a way to perform leadership.  

One of the ways that shows up in coaching conversations is when a coach has all of the questions already. When the coach is asking the next question, right after the client’s finished speaking, there’s no room, there’s no space. The coach is asking the right questions and doing coaching the right way, rather than being with the intimacy of the moment, rather than being with the intimacy of whatever will show up if they slow down and situate themselves exactly where they are. The world gets caught up in performing leadership. The performance of leadership tends to look good. It does things like it cries at exactly the right time. It mimics leadership beautifully. You’ll notice this when you see good speakers. There’s a polished nature to them. That’s the performance of leadership. They make the joke at the perfect time. They do exactly the thing that they’re meant to do right when you’re expecting it. It feels so good, but it’s all performance.  

GL 129 | The Performance Of Leadership

Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People

I witnessed someone speaking. It was a woman who wrote a book called Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With PeopleIt was all about how to captivate. As I watched her speaking at an event, I was present to how captivating she was scientifically speaking. There was such a beautiful performance of all of the stuff. It was like watching a masterful artist or magician go through a trickAt the end of the day, what was lacking underneath was the real vulnerability of it. There was conversation about her being vulnerable and there was a pause at exactly the right amount of time, reasserted the right point for exactly the right amount of time. Yet underneath that, there’s something just missing. Now, I want to be clear that the world will reward you for the performance of leadership and those that perform better than others will do the best at this.  

The path of performing leadership is safer. The path of performing leadership is easier. It doesn’t require confronting your fear the same way. It requires a conversation about confronting your fear. It requires performing as though you’re confronting your fear. That may even require that you get in touch with your fear. Just like an actor has to touch the emotions in order to convey that feeling. No matter how in touch an actor is with their own emotions, when they’re portraying a character who’s had their child murdered, it’s not the same as that moment when you have your child murdered. I apologize for these terrible examples I’m coming up with, but I think that serves to make a salient point. No performance can ever truly be a substitute for the truth of something. At best, it can get closer and closer but it’s forever asymptotic.  

What do we do with this? How do we work with this? This is a conversation about taking a look internally and seeing not how or if, but where are you engaged in the performance of leadership. Where do you look to do it right? Where do you use words like vulnerability because you know that there’s going to be a particular impact when you use those words? Some of the best ways for us to start catching the performance of leadership is to look for the places where we put breadcrumbs for people. Notice ourselves using words like vulnerability alert or a trigger warning. Leadership doesn’t do that. That’s superfluous. What leadership does is put the thing into the space and then let people have what a reaction they’re going to have to it, and then be responsible for that impact. That’s a profound difference in a very subtle way of showing up.  

No performance can ever truly be a substitute for the truth of something.  Share on X

All there is to do is to start noticing this distinction, not in other people, but in yourself. Where are you engaged in the performance of leadership? Notice where you’re doing things so as to get a reaction and keep an eye on that and ask yourself, “What would be a little riskier? What would put me a little bit more out on the edge in this moment? That’s all we’ve got for you. I look forward to hearing any thoughts, feedback, comments about this episode or any of the other ones that we’ve had. I will say if I’m looking for guests that are operating as an executive level positionIf you know someone that you think would be a good candidate, that’s up to something big and would be willing to come on the show, share their story and dive into a coaching conversation. I would love to have them put us in touch or even send me an email and let me know. I always appreciate your introductions. It is such a gift to me when you make those that’s at PR@AdamQuiney.com.  

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About Adam Quiney

I’m an obsessive perfectionist, high-performer, former lawyer, and now an Executive Mentor. I know what it’s like to succeed easily and quickly. To blindly put my happiness in the hands of achievement.

All the success, money and possessions in the world couldn’t cure my boredom. Couldn’t produce a loving, intimate relationship with my wife…and definitely couldn’t fulfill me.