A leader doesn’t tell people what to do! Does that strike you as a contradiction? Read on.
In these letters, we’ve often examined aspects of what constitutes genuine leadership. Recently I listened to one of the best in-depth looks at this issue I’ve come across.
We’ll learn that the leader’s job is to provide the vision and why that vision is powerful, and what success looks like. Then he or she must get out of the way and let people do their jobs.
People may come back with questions. Of course, those questions must be answered. If they need support, emotionally or functionally, it’s the leader’s job is to provide that. The point though is that the leader doesn’t manage. The leader empowers people to do their work in a supportive environment.
Here’s Ben Hardy, one of my favorite sources for inspiration and great unique ideas, discussing truly great leadership. The idea of leading without managing is one of the cornerstones of modern leadership theory. Sadly, it gets more lip service than true adherence.
Useful background for what I’m about to offer can be found in my several-weeks-ago issue. There we discussed Ben Hardy/Dan Sullivan’s book, Who Not How. Ben refers to it often in today’s video.
Benjamin Hardy holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology. He’s also the author of Personality Isn’t Permanent and several other books exploring personality change. He knows what he’s talking about!
The three things people need to do their jobs are:
- Competence to do the work, and confidence in their competence.
- Autonomy – the authority to apply their skills. They must be in control of how they do their jobs.
- Connectedness – Being connected with team members is highly empowering.
One who takes any of this away is disempowering the worker and stripping them of the important elements they need to carry on effectively. The person guilty of this is trying to be a manager, and is not a leader. “Managing” people is an inefficient way of trying to get anything done. It usually results in the loss of the best talent, and the remaining people are unmotivated.
Ben discusses three stages of human development, a Robert Keegan model. I’ll briefly describe them here. He does a much better job of imparting a full understanding of them than I can do here in a few words,
- Dependence – The socializing self – taking all sense of identity and direction from others.
- Independence – Self-authorship – having one’s own goals and pursuing them without relationship with others. The only relationships an independent person engages in are those he or she believes will further his or her goals.
- Self-transforming stage – two or more people share goals and solutions, neither imposing views on the other, but sharing views to result in the best solution they can see together – the team is better than the sum of the members.
In that third stage, mutual respect and trust are vital. If one party tries to dominate the goals, visions, and outcomes, the effort breaks down.
Be a leader! Don’t be a manager! Learn the psychology behind this here.