Winter in Minnesota is a tremendous time to be out in the woods. Along with the natural beauty, and sometimes stark conditions, it is usually the best time of year to see signs of animal activity.

On a single, long trek this winter, I followed wolf tracks for over a mile, saw numerous sets of deer tracks and crossed a number of snowshoe hare prints. The highlight of the walk though, was the fresh moose tracks. They entered the trail, meandered along the browse near the trail, and then re-entered the woods, disappearing into thick forest.

Leaders leave tracks, too. A number of recent conversations with people from organizations I’ve worked for and with, have me thinking about the impact and legacy of leaders.

Some leaders are like the tracks I saw that day. Unobtrusive, purposeful and leaving small notice behind that they were there. These leaders are often a perfect fit for high performing organizations with quality people, working hard towards a common objective. Often, employees just need a continued sense of vision, and some guiding and nudging along the way. These leaders are unassuming and know just where they, and their organization, are going.

Other leaders are like the sled dogs I’ve been working with this winter. Strong, consistent and energetic. They work and work until the tasks get done, and they take joy in what they do. When the going gets tough, they rise to the challenge and plow ahead, making a trail for others to follow. All they require is a little food, some positive reinforcement and a scratch on the belly–the dogs, not the leaders. These leaders work hard because it’s ingrained in them and they love the sense of purpose their work provides.

Unfortunately, some leaders leave tracks more like wolf kills I’ve seen in winters past. They cause a great disturbance, do a lot of damage, and then move on to their next meal. What’s left behind are bits of fur, blood and other signs of the struggle. While this is natural and appropriate for large carnivores and their prey, leaders should not be causing this sort of damage. These leaders often don’t even know they are destructive and move quickly from job to job while others are left to pick up the pieces.

We all leave tracks. What do your tracks say about you?