Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 Reasons Not to Consider Yourself an Empowering Leader...

As someone who's trying to grow as a leader, I found this recent post by Ron Edmondson to be very useful.

Here are 10 reasons you may want to reconsider calling yourself an empowering leader AND some tips on what to do about each one:

1. Your number one answer is “NO”

A leader should practice saying “Yes,” even when he or she isn’t certain it’s the right decision. Many times, he or she will be proven wrong. Other times a mistake will be made. In those times, the leader shouldn’t claim, “I told you so,” but allow those times to help shape the empowered leader. You’ve learned from your mistakes and you should allow your leaders that opportunity as well. Saying “Yes” invites people to take risks and keeps them exploring new ideas for your team.

2. You have to personally approve every decision and control every outcome

The leader has to let go of control if she wants others on the team to continue exploring new ideas. Giving up the leader’s right to approve every decision implants ownership into the minds of the team members. People are more likely to give their best attention to things over which they personally have responsibility and control.

3. Everyone on your team works “for you” and not “with you”

If your team feels that they are merely an employee to do your bidding, they will most likely respond as an employee responds; working for a paycheck, rather than as partners on a team. The more the leader talks about and treats people around him or her as participants in attaining a common vision, the more likely others on the team will perform in that role, and perform at a higher level.

Mere employees are fine, they just aren’t as valuable, useful or reliable as trusted team members.

4. You use the word “I” more than the word “We”

A leader’s words carry more weight than he may realize. The best leaders I know rarely use the term “I”, because they love including others in the progress of their work. They love to share credit and spread responsibility, recognizing that the combined efforts of a team make an organization better.

5. Your idea of delegation is telling people what to do, when and how to do it

If a leader wants to delegate, then she has to delegate not only responsibility but also authority. Giving an assignment to someone should also mean giving them the right to choose the best ways to get it done and the general timetable for accomplishing the task. The leader may need to give a deadline for the task to be done, but then she should give some freedom for the one responsible to set the pace towards completion.

6. You say “Do this” far more than you ask “What should we do?”

If a leader wants true team members, then he will have to welcome input by soliciting ideas from others on the team. If people feel they never have a voice at the table, they are less likely to dream new ideas for the team. Eventually, if someone with leadership abilities isn’t allowed to contribute to the discussion, she will look for a place to serve where her input is valued.

7. Nothing happens in your organization without your knowledge

The best delegators I know lead people who are capable of carrying a task to completion without being hand-held through the process. When I see a team accomplishing great things that the lead person doesn’t even know about, I know it is a healthy leader and most likely a healthy team. The leader should be close enough to other areas of the organization to know progress is being made, but should be comfortable with not knowing all the details of accomplishment.

8. You consistently reverse the decisions of the team

There will be times when it is imperative for the leader to reverse a decision made by others on the team, but this should be a rare occurrence. No one likes to waste his or her time and energy on something, which will never be valued or used. It would almost be better to let a few bad decisions go forward than for the leader to shut down the team from wanting to try new things.

9. You control information because information is power

Leaders should willingly share information with the team necessary for completion of their work, but also for motivation, team building, collaboration and a sense of ownership by the entire team. Additionally, information should flow through an organization freely, not simply from the top down. The leader who is closed to learning from those that technically work “for him” will quickly find that the best ideas are never heard.

10. You crush people when they make a mistake

People on the team watch how the leader handles other team member’s mistakes. If they see the leader as forgiving and applying grace to the situation, they are more likely to take a risk. If a team member believes she will feel the crushing weight of defeat if a mistake is made, she will rarely venture outside what is absolutely required to get the job done.

If you desire to be an empowering leader, you desire a challenging task. It requires more risk-taking, a greater value placed upon other people’s skills, and a willingness to humble yourself. Great organizations, however, are built by those leaders willing to empower others to lead well.

Which of these areas is hardest for you to live out as a leader?