Recently I had a conversation with my father-in-law who used to sell and repair televisions as a side business. Somehow we started talking about early color sets. He mentioned that he owns the first color set he ever sold, and we reminisced about the first color sets we had. We got ours when I was ten, in the fall of 1972. How do I know? Because that was the first World Series I saw in full color.
Television and movies worked in black and white – but for the most part, when seen in full color, they are richer, more powerful and more enjoyable to watch. Of course we take that for granted now, but it doesn’t change the fact that color provides a more real, distinct and life-like experience.
I believe we can connect this experience of television to our work as leaders. We can lead in black and white and do OK, but the best leaders lead in full color. Here’s what I mean . . .
Leadership Green. Green is the color of growth. Healthy plants are green. Fruit that is approaching its peak is green. So too should we be growing and learning as leaders. If we aren’t learning, we are falling behind, dying, or perhaps worst of all, rotting.
Leadership Blue. Many people see blue as a soothing, calming color. There is a time for us as leaders to be steady, calm and consistent. When the chaos of change begins to overcome the productivity and emotions of our teams, we as leaders must bring the perspective that provides the needed calm to the situation.
Leadership Red. Red is the color of passion and fire. As leaders we must bring our passion for the results we are working for and the team we are leading. Our passion for everything we do – the results, the team and the Customers we deliver to all matter – and our team, will be inspired by that passion.
Leadership Yellow. Yellow is the color of the sun – the color of energy, the color of warmth and positivity. If you want a climate of positive energy on your team (and you know you do), you must lead that energy charge. The best leaders have a positive outlook and belief about the future. Make sure to bring your yellow to work.
Leadership Orange. I asked one of my team members this morning her first thought about the color orange. She said “construction workers.” Perfect. Orange is, in that context, the color of caution, and as leaders we must provide the caution in some situations. We must keep our teams safe physically and emotionally. More than the right thing to do, when people know that, they will be more productive and effective.
Leadership Purple. If you ask my mother about purple, she will smile – it is her favorite color. For that reason, I connect purple as a color of creativity (My Mom is very creative!). As a leader we must be creative and encourage the creativity and innovation of our team members too.
Leadership Pink. In recent years, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has most people thinking about pink in relationship to breast cancer awareness and fundraising. To me this is a powerful reminder that leaders must lead from their values. The things that are important to us matter and can help define the best of what we can become as a leader.
Leadership Gray. Leadership is complex. After all we are dealing with people! And because of that, the best leaders recognize the situational nature of many things they face. The best leaders see the world in situational shades of gray rather than as a completely black and white world.
And I believe leaders can learn from black and white too, so here are some thoughts for you . . .
Leadership Black. When things are in black, there is a finality and a commitment to them. As leaders we must be committed, hold firm to commitments and lead from that foundation. That commitment level makes things clearer for us, and therefore easier for us to lead, and more consistent for others, and therefore easier for them to follow.
Leadership White. Nothing is purer than something completely white – a blanket of snow comes to mind. As a leader our intentions must be pure, our ego must be in check, and we must be as transparent to others in our thoughts and actions as possible.
I may have left out your favorite color, or given a different association with a color than you would have. My point here isn’t to be complete or definitive. Rather, my goal is to get you thinking about what “leading in full color” means to you.
Leadership is complex and challenging, and so thinking about how the colors of the rainbow (and beyond) connect to your work as a leader will get you far better results. Follow those thoughts to higher performance and you will find your pot of gold at the end of your leadership rainbow.

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