Today’s post is written by Heidi Veal, a passionate educator who serves as an assistant principal for an early childhood school in McKinney, TX.


When was the last time you arranged dominoes just for the fun of watching them fall down, one-onto-the-other, collapsing the line into a neatly bowed-down design? For me, I was a child when I last played with dominoes this way. For some, arranging dominoes goes far beyond hobby status, taking it to professional levels at international competitions and exhibitions.


Take a moment to think about the cause-effect action of dominoes descending onto themselves. A person carefully arranges the dominoes with meaning behind each placement, expecting and understanding that when they all fall down, their landing is intentional because they were purposefully placed. The end product is a pattern reflecting thoughtful planning and precise execution. It is a work of art for the creator, a thing of wonder to watch!


How does this connect with leadership you ask? Consider the image of the arranged, descending, and static fallen dominos through a leadership lense. Proactive, collaborative, and transparent leaders take into account what I will call The Domino Effect. They see their impact not as a singular event, but more so as a chain reaction.

Domino Effect 1

These leaders carefully measure how one decision affects the entire system. They have the awareness to anticipate how the fall of the first domino, ie the first action, affects outcomes further down the road and thus, plan accordingly. These leaders understand their work is possible with the collaboration, trust, amplification, and momentum of their team. Stakeholders are included, decisions are made with forethought, the yield is a work of excellence, and all who are involved share in the victories!


Qualities of those who lead with an understanding of The Domino Effect


Arranging… Proactive in his/her approach, the leader arranges in a way that maximizes desired outcomes for all stakeholders. Arranging means the leader anticipates missed connections, reflects on past mistakes and misses, tests parts of the system, takes into account how one placement or change impacts the arrangement/community at large, and foresees difficulty down the way. They effectively and efficiently arrange as a result of listening and receiving feedback. Finally, they know powerful arrangement efforts are only possible through collaborative efforts with those on their team.


Setting Into Motion… By maximizing collaboration, the leader has a WE, not me, approach to the critical work at hand. This involves bringing together a team, listening and communicating through the process, empowering others to set the pieces in motion together, celebrating the team’s accomplishments, and interdependently working to achieve desired results.


Assessing the Outcomes … Transparent, Responsive, Responsible, and Reflective. These are all words that come to mind when thinking of a leader who understands The Domino Effect. When missteps happen, the leader is responsive as opposed to aloof. Outcomes, such as the falling of the dominoes, are carefully anticipated. The leader understands that the fall of the first domino effects the fall of the final one too. Therefore, knee jerk decisions are avoided and decisions are made collaboratively. Reflection is a critical component in the process of assessing outcomes. The leader seeks feedback, carefully listens to it and takes it to heart, and responds to the feedback with a growth mindset perspective.

Domino Effect 2


What happens when The Domino Effect goes awry? Something very unsettling. As can be imagined, things do not turn out well! In short, a mess results! I learned recently from, of all places, a YouTube video more about the physics of falling dominos. A falling domino can knock over another domino about one and a half times larger than itself. Imagine the implications of this scientific truth as a metaphor for leadership!  


A decision has the potential to have a positive OR negative impact one and a half times larger than itself! Consider what happens when a decision is made without considering the outcome. The entire system could be corrupted. The phrase “It’s All Connected” immediately comes to mind. Leaders cannot think that they make decisions in a vacuum or rely on a “Because I said so” approach. Leaders in tune with The Domino Effect see the connections and lead with an understanding of the impact of their decisions.


When it comes to leadership, The Domino Effect is a real thing. The professionals who fill our organizations are talented and committed. They deserve leaders who lead with The Domino Effect in mind.


To read more by Heidi 

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