Avoid the Epic Leader Fail

leaders A great piece in Inc magazine recently reminded me of what leaders do wrong on a regular basis – “drive” for performance instead of “lead.” The author Marcel Schwantes makes a great case for why people don’t want to be driven like cattle. If we think about some recent leadership failures, for example, Uber, you’ll see what he’s talking about.

So how can leaders lead vs. drive? Schwantes identifies three very easy things that successful leaders do to start:

  1. They facilitate a shared vision
  2. They share power and release control
  3. They share leadership by pushing authority down

Telling people what to do rarely works well in the long-term. You can get people to do what you say simply because you have positional authority but after a while, people feel “driven.” As I’ve often said, engaging people in your shared vision or “purpose” will let them decide how they will be on board and help, versus being forced to. It’s always more powerful when someone decides on their own to ride the bus versus being shoved onto it involuntarily. Think of the first time you put your kids on the school bus, not a pleasant experience! Get people excited about where you are going, what role they will play and why they might want to join you. The WHY of the whole thing is much more motivating than “because I said so.”

Successful leaders don’t hoard control. They know that sharing power and releasing control lets people make the best decisions because they feel empowered to be a part of the solution. Keeping control disempowers your team from doing their best and over time they feel a sense of helplessness because no matter what they do, they have to wait for you to approve. Not only is this demoralizing, it is expensive because it’s the least efficient way to run a company.

Lastly, good leaders push authority down. Let others make decisions and hold them accountable for the results. You will only grow good leaders if they have an opportunity to lead themselves. If you keep all the authority, the buck always stops with you, and your people will never quite know what is their responsibility and what is yours.

Bottom line, growing leaders is about sharing and showing good leadership. You must demonstrate what you want in the workplace and how a good leader leads. Unfortunately, we have seen some very public, epic leadership fails lately and not as many on the other side of the scale. You can start by leading your employees with a culture that fosters a shared vision and power and not a cattle drive for performance.

photo credit: Jayembee69 Followed by the herd at Chipping Norton via photopin (license)