Whether as a parent, manager, employee or instructor, most of us are going to experience leadership at some point in our lives.
However, leadership doesn’t come naturally to many of us. We don’t know how to get people to listen enthusiastically, we don’t feel worthy of being in charge, and we’re not sure how to deal with a crisis if things go wrong. The thought of being over a group of people is terrifying.
Luckily, there’s a powerful way of thinking that can help you to be more effective in leading to get the very best out of your team members. Let’s look closer…
How Not to Approach Leadership
The mistake many leaders make is to believe that they need to “command” or “shape” their team members. Whether consciously or otherwise, they think of their team as some kind of dough that needs to be molded, which can cause a lot of resistance. People are more likely to follow when there is a sense of mutual respect. Going into a situation expecting to rule with absolute authority and tyranny is not the wisest plan.
This mindset tends to lead to other mistakes as well.
We might approach leadership by thinking of ways to motivate our team – either with a carrot or stick (reward or punishment).
This instantly creates tension. What is your natural reaction when told to do something? Very often, we feel a compelling urge to do the opposite thing!
But rewards can’t be all that bad, right?
Consider these disadvantages of when we work only for a reward:
- It essentially removes the focus from the work itself. Work is now a means to an end – and the end is the reward, which means we’ll be focused on finishing that work as quickly as possible and not necessarily to the best of our abilities.
- Research has shown that a reward can actually stifle creativity.
- Constantly giving instructions (trying to micromanage your team members) also prevents your team from being able to work independently of you.
A Powerful Alternative
The alternative, then, is to make the work itself into an incentive. The aim is to ensure that everyone on your team is enjoying the journey of working toward the same goals and that they want the same positive outcome as you.
Now there is no need to motivate – they are self-motivated.
Now there is no need to constantly remind them what they should be doing – they are excitedly aware of their individual tasks and purpose on the team.
You’ve empowered your team! This means that you now aim to reduce your influence and your role (which also happens to be good for your heart rate).
There are a few ways you can go about doing this:
1. Give your team ownership. Give your team ownership over their own projects. Let them take control and provide inventive input. Give them credit where it is due and acknowledge what is done well. Make them proud to be completing work that has their name on it.
2. Explain WHAT and WHY, not HOW. Instead of telling your team that they need to do X, instead, tell them that you need to accomplish Y. Then they can decide the best steps to take in order to meet that goal. Trust that your team can adapt and be flexible as it suits them.
- Allowing your team to work the way that suits them best is a great way to ensure that they stay happy and motivated. That might mean offering flexi-time, a hybrid of working remotely and on-site, or it might mean letting them decide what order to complete projects in.
When you empower your team, your job then becomes to nurture the passions and skills of your team – not to try and control their every move. And when you focus on that, you’ll ultimately realize that there is no reason to be stressed!
With an empowered team, you can expect superior results. This means that you’ve now become the powerful leader that you never thought you could be! Congratulations on a job well done!