If you’ve not read Stephan’s writings then welcome. For 21st century leaders, the over dependence on managers to make decisions is a bottleneck to progress. Though it may keep change resistant managers happy, it leaves many dissatisfied. Stephan offers up some insights to move away from the staleness inherent in inflated importance. This is part one of two.
If Your People are not Thinking, You are Failing as a Leader
Meet Gary. He is the leader of a small organization and a very “hands on” guy. He makes a point of knowing about every single detail in the organization and gets involved in the detail 90% of the time. He further prides himself in his problem solving abilities. He is the “go to guy” and likes the fact that people look up to him when they have a problem. He gets involved in all the decision making processes in the organization. In his mind he plays a vital role in solving problems and making important decisions. Gary is convinced he is a very effective leader and his contribution plays an important role in the success of the organization.
Making People Dependant
The sad truth is Gary is not a very effective leader. The way he leads people creates a culture of dependence on him as leader in the organization. This results in people not thinking anymore, becoming lazy to solving problems and losing confidence to make decisions on their own. Through his behaviour Gary stifles the creative genius of the people he leads. By not affording them the opportunity to think and come up with solutions to problems and challenges, he has made them dependant.
Gary is not only doing the organization a disservice, but himself as well. By focussing so much on solving other people’s problems, he neglects development areas in his personal leadership, such as coaching and setting direction. He spends most of his time involved in problem solving mode, stealing time he could have spent more productively.
Successful Leaders Don’t Need to be Present
Successful leadership means your followers don’t need you around for them to be productive. They can operate without you. Once you set the direction, they move on their own accord towards the goal. This means as leader you can spend your time on motivating, coaching and course correcting. A successful leader allows people to make their own decisions. It means they must be able to face problems and come up with solutions, without involving the leader in the process of getting to the solution. To achieve this, people in the organization must think for themselves.
People need to be trained to think. It may sound strange, because doesn’t thinking come rather naturally? The truth is very few people actually learn to think in terms of problem solving. Thinking skills like lateral thinking, thinking out of the box and analytical thinking, unfortunately does not come without training.
As a leader it is your job to help people to develop these skills. At first it will take a lot of effort and will not be easy, especially if your organization has a culture of dependency. It will also take effort from your side, because you will have to trust people to come up with solutions and make the right decisions. You will have to deal with wrong decisions and mistakes as part of the growing pains.
Being available as coach to guide and give advice will become your primary function during this transition. The good news is there is a process you can follow to make it easier to train people in their thinking processes.