“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
- Lives Values
- Empowers Others
- Asks for feedback, ideas, comments
- Directs the Course
- Effectively Communicates
As I stated in my blog the other day, I am going to focus on my definition of LEADER in a six-part series. Knowing that tonight’s blog was about empowering others, I had the opportunity to watch myself throughout my workday to see how I was performing in the empowerment department!
A leader needs to actually empower others to empower themselves. As a coach, a guiding principle is the belief that our clients are creative, resourceful and whole. Why? Because as human beings, we have this fantastic muscle that we call a brain and as with any muscle, it needs to be exercised in order to be in peak form. Creating an environment of empowerment promotes and encourages a consistent exercise work-out, utilizing everyone’s creativity and brain power to increase strength and endurance within an organization.
Most of us begin our leadership careers by being recognized for our strong technical capabilities in addition to having some people skills. As we are promoted into a supervisory or management position, we take on new responsibilities and higher expectations are placed upon us by management and the people who are reporting to us. I would venture a guess, that the majority of us who have been in a leadership role for a while would admit that we have made some major managerial boo-boos early in our careers.
I would also venture a guess that the reason we stumbled in our new role was based upon the fact that we were leading (and I use that term very loosely) by fear. Fear rising from our own insecurities of being in that new role and being in unfamiliar territory where emotional skills are required more than our technical skills. So what do we do? We become highly directive, telling people what or what not to do, we micro-manage because we feel the need to show everyone we are in control because we are feeling a bit out of control. I know…it sounds a bit weird but I tend to think it is true. As we lead by fear, our employees react out of fear because that is a normal response to being under a dictatorship…people stop thinking for themselves, doing only as they are told, covering their butts and trying to stay out of the firing line (figuratively and literally). They are only going through the motions…not truly flexing their mental muscles.
I can speak confidently on this subject of leading by insecurity and fear from my own personal experience. Many years ago, I was promoted into a general manager position with absolutely no formal training in leadership whatsoever. When I was given the responsibility to go in and turn around a non-performing operation, I took that responsibility very seriously…and I mean VERY seriously. Because I had successfully proven my skills in leading the start-up of another small operation, the leaders in my company felt that my skill sets could do the same in this failing operation. I moved my family to a new state, stepped into my office that first day and thought “what the heck does a general manager do?”
I didn’t have the slightest clue on what I should be doing except that I was supposed to fix whatever problems needed fixing so I went into a “command and control” mode using my technical experience in directing my staff into taking action on a problem that I felt needed fixing right away. Instead of using my strengths in relationship development and seeking to understand before taking action, I created a major (albeit unintentional) financial hiccup at the end of a financial reporting period.
Thankfully, I was able to work through the financial issues quickly and I learned a major leadership lesson…by not empowering this team through my listening to gain understanding on why they did things as they did and by not empowering them through explaining why I was asking them to do what I was asking, I had created a major leadership boo-boo. If I had gone in with an open mind and trust in myself and others, my team could have pointed out where my plan of action had some serious flaws and they probably would have come up with a more appropriate and effective action, saving my company and myself a lot of major angst.
Moving into a role as supervisor or manager does not automatically make us a leader and to be effective requires us to have trust in others. Trust that those who are doing the real work know more about how things could/should be done than what we know . Trust that those who surround us take as much pride and ownership in the work to be done as we take. Trust that not trusting in the capabilities, creativity and resourcefulness of our team will set us up to fail.
Teddy Roosevelt said it best: great leaders hire great people, control themselves versus controlling others…and then stay the heck out of the way!
What is your personal leadership “boo-boo” story? I would love if you would share!