Give it Away!

One of the principles that I have learned as I have gained experience and wisdom is that the answer is often hidden or the opposite of logic. This realization has led me to second guess my observations and solutions and this has been very enlightening as I examine the issue from several angles and often get conflicting solutions.

AFRICA 2009 - WESTERN PROVINCE 174

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

As I have coached and built-up leaders through the years, I have used this second guessing as a test on how I look at leadership and management styles and their effectiveness. For the most part I have concluded that, barring abusive behavior, as long as they are effective then their style is usually acceptable. People are somewhere between very tough to impossible to change. You work with what you got.

The outlier to this theory is how we give power to our leaders. I believe there are some pretty rigid rules in how you build a powerful leader. Much of this is common sense, yet few really follow the rules here.

The source of the power that exists in the leaders of your team comes from you! If you see a person as a weak leader, its is often a result of not being given the power and authority to do their job. You have to give it away. This narrative of weak leadership may actually be the voice in your head giving you the authority to meddle in their affairs and undermine their authority.

There are many damaging actions that thwart authority and lead to a weakened leader. Here a a few of the biggies:

Chain of Command: When you do not respect the chain of command you are undermining the authority of your leaders. If you continually direct people downstream of others you are sending a message that their leaders instructions are not important. Although you are the “big boss” and you can do whatever you want, this disregard for the authority of those you have placed in charge is damaging. Very damaging. Don’t do it.

Micromanagement: Getting in the weeds on issues and overanalyzing is damaging to authority. Accept that mistakes will happen. This is the only path to growth. Stay out of the weeds.

New Ideas: Don’t shoot down new ideas because they are not yours or they involve risk. Be receptive to new ways of doing things. This is empowering your leaders to think. To be relevant. To make a difference.

Hiding your Leaders: Celebrate and promote your leaders in the business world. Some folks will be fearful that by promoting there leaders they may loose them to another company. I say that hiding them will lead to the same result. Promote your leaders. It will strengthen your organization.

Limiting Decisions: By limiting the authority of making decisions you are also limiting their power. Give them the authority but make sure they know they own it. They will have to clean up the mess if it goes bad. This is also a path to growth.

Too many times we deduce that weak leadership is the result of a character flaw or the limited abilities of the leader we manage. The truth is that their power comes from you!

You can either build them up or tear them down. It’s your choice. If you want a strong organization you need to give your power away. Let it flow downward. Will there be problems if you let go? Yes- always. However, you will have a group of strong leaders below you and this will be a huge advantage in cleaning up the mess.

Wind them up and let them go. You’ll be happy with the results!

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Top of the Order

I have been dreaming a lot lately.  This is pretty unusual for me.  I don’t typically dream much when I sleep.  Many of these dreams have been childhood visions and dreams of my Mom and Dad.  Several times, as I have awakened, I have been really struck with missing my parents.  I lost my Mom 23 years ago and my father passed away last October.  All of my grandparents are also gone.  I have been left with a feeling of being alone.  This is not your usual feeling of loneliness.  I have plenty of friends, lots of relatives, a wife and children.  However, this feeling is different- something that I have not experienced before.

Zambezi River- Zambia 2009

I guess I relied on my parents more than I had considered.  I always knew that I could phone my Dad to ask his opinion or just to share an experience.  I didn’t call him every day or even every week, but when I needed to talk he was there.  There was a comfort in knowing this.  There has been a bunch of times since his passing that I have had the urge to call him- actually reaching for my cellphone– then realizing that he won’t answer.

I am getting an understanding of what it feels like when an elderly person says “all my friends are gone”.  It’s lonely realizing that you are reaching the “top of the order”.  I have been considering this too.  I am now the senior male of our family- the oldest- the wisest?  Wow, really struggling with this too.  I’m supposed to have all the answers now?  Be the one with all the advice?  The sage of the family?  Just doesn’t feel right.

As I have been thinking about this new season, I have also been examining what it is like being at the top of an organization.  The pinnacle of an organization is also a lonely position.  As I have progressed in my career to an executive position, I have noticed that the gang no longer shares things with you- they treat you differently.  They don’t include you in their discussions.  Sometimes you walk in and thing get quiet.  They are now careful and guarded around you.   You are no longer part of the mainstream.  You are set apart.

Sometimes, leading is not really a question.  You realize that you have to lead- you really have no choice.  They need direction, guidance, and support.  They need someone that they can look up to.  Someone they can call on when they don’t know what to do.  You now have superior experience and wisdom.  Yet, the top can be a lonely place.  You don’t have a support system around you.  You may have others in similar positions that you can consult, but ultimately, you will have to make the final decision.

Leading is not easy.  I really enjoy helping others and serving, but it can be tiring.  I often think that it would be easier to take a lesser position, go backwards, and be part of the gang again.  But I can’t.  They need me.  And it’s my turn.

I wish my Dad was still here, but he’s gone.  So it’s my turn to be in front.  I suppose it will feel more natural as time goes on.  So I’ll strap on the pack and start marching.  That’s what you must do when you are at the top of the order.

Have you experienced the loneliness of being at the top of the order?  Have you ever felt isolated due to your position?  Click on comments and tell me your experience!