It’s easy to undervalue leadership, and think that just being good at the “hard skills” of your career and telling your direct reports specifically what you want them to do will be sufficient, but as team’s and organizations grow, that doesn’t scale.
It’s also easy to think the most important priority for a leader is to build big, complex schedules with row after row of Microsoft Project tasks and a huge Gantt chart. Or to conduct frequent sync-ups to drive work through your team.
But the most important thing a leader actually does is define his or her team’s/organization’s culture. Great leaders create a culture that attracts and retains great people that align with that culture.
Sometimes that culture is focused on being a safe space where people can take big risks and it’s okay to fail (see Google’s Project Aristotle, see Google X). Sometimes it’s a culture that focuses on a purpose that people rally behind (an exciting mission by manned space flight or a noble mission like helping Veterans find post-military careers). But whatever it is, it’s critical as a leader to realize that setting and maintaining culture (and actually making hiring, promotion, attention, firing decisions based on it) that is the most important thing a leader does.