If the only way we can get others to follow us is through commanding and controlling them, we are not leading, but managing. This creates a higher workload and greater stress for us, and disempowers and frustrates our team members. It also makes us a blocker not an enabler, because the team cannot operate without us. We end up on a road to inevitable failure and complexity, because we create an unhealthy dependency.
The more we provide for them, the more they will look to us to provide, and the less satisfied they will be with what we offer. This is because we systematically destroy their motivation, by stripping away their sense of responsibility and value. It is a downward spiral for us all. This approach will compromise workplace wellbeing for everyone and impact the performance and success of the business.
Whatever our target, as a leader, our role is inspire a vision, communicate the mission, build trust, and support people on their path as they work towards achieving that vision with us. We need to maximise their autonomy and team cohesion, and minimise their reliance on us. We must stop giving them answers and instructions, and start giving them responsibility and opportunities to unlock their full potential. If we can achieve this, everyone will find work much more enjoyable, manageable, and fulfilling. Work becomes a positive contributor to our wellbeing not a drama we have to compensate for.
If we are leaders focussed on tasks, we are managing. Leaders by their very definition of needing followers, must focus on people. If you are a leader by name, struggling to be a leader by nature, it’s time for a re-evaluation. The litmus test for leadership:
Can I comfortably take 4-weeks away from my role and workplace, and with no one replacing me, can I be confident that when I return my team will have delivered what had been agreed on time, on budget, and to the required quality standard? Could they overcome any challenges that got in their way without me there? If not, this is a very high-risk place to be. With the right understanding of humans and the right leadership techniques, this is very possible for every leader. management is not leadership.