ASSUME…The Most Powerful Word in Leadership

Assuming a leadership role is much more than merely accepting the new position.


I remember the first time I saw someone dissect the word, assume.

It was in The Bad News Bears (the Walter Matthau version in 1976).  The Bear’s coach, who would later be replaced by Coach Buttermaker (played by Matthau), was lecturing the team on his philosophy of coaching.  He wrote the word ASSUME on a chalkboard.  He said they should never assume.  “Whenever you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of YOU and ME.”

To my pre-teen mind, this sentence was amazing on two fronts.  It showed that a cuss word can be buried inside a regular word.  Quite a revelation.  It also showed that one should never assume anything in life, because, well, you know the rest of the sentence.

Since then, I’ve learned there’s a lot more to the word ASSUME.  In fact, it is the essence of becoming a leader.

Consider some phrases that describe a new leadership position:

-She took on the new team lead position.

-He received a promotion to supervisor.

-She was hired to replace the manager who just left.

-They created a new management position for him.

-We are happy to announce we’ve brought on Jeff Smith, who will be our new General Manager.

Sure, all of these describe important leadership roles.  There’s some person filling each slot.  We know whose name is in which box on the org chart.

But, can we assume they are a leader?  Maybe, maybe not.  Remember what happens when we assume.

Leaders are those who assume the mindset and perspective needed to actually lead others.  When a leader assumes their role, they’re stepping into the ownership position.  They own their role.  They own the direction.  They own the outcomes.  They spend their time on offense, rather than preparing their defense.

More importantly, when they assume their leadership role, they become the servant to those they lead.  They realize that nothing happens without the people they’re leading.  They look for opportunities to multiply their efforts and the efforts of those they lead.

Assuming a leadership role is much more than merely accepting the new position.  In fact, it often has nothing to do with your current position in the organization.  You can (and should) be a leader long before you’re granted the position by someone else.

Look around your organization.  Who are the true leaders?  You’ll probably notice that they’re the ones who have fully assumed the role.



Author: Bob Dailey

Born and raised in Southern California. Graduated from (and met my future wife at) Cal Poly Pomona, in 1988. Married to Janet for almost 35 years. Father of two: Julianne and Jennifer. Grandfather of 7. Held many positions in small, medium, and large companies. Trail runner, competitive stair climber, backpacker, camper, off-roader, world traveler, sometimes writer.

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