This series is not really about leadership, but there’s no doubt that leadership can find you, even when you’re not looking for it.
Why? Simply because, as you become more productive and successful in your work and your life, the chances increase that you will be thrust into a leadership possession. When that happens, you’re automatically given the opportunity to leverage your own success through the efforts and results of others.
Next time you’re in a leadership position, try a better way to lead people. It’s not the old-fashioned approach of trying to twist, bend, and shape each person into whatever mold the leader needs, wants, or sees for them at the moment. Instead, work to implement a variety of means and methods that tend to unleash their inherent motivations and strengths.
Here’s a brief rundown of how to get the most from others when you’re in the driver’s seat:
Allow for Self-Assignments
The old way is to assign particular people to particular tasks, projects, or responsibilities. No matter how well you do this, you’re almost never going to be able to tap every person’s inherent motivations and strengths to the max.
But when you allow room for each person to work on the tasks, projects, and responsibilities they prefer, you set the stage for maximum effort and surprisingly good results.
Of course, there’s a tendency for everyone to want the most prominent, rewarding, and sexy opportunities, so you may have to limit the self-assignment freedoms somewhat, or negotiate trade-offs to cover everything that needs to get done.
Even so, this more flexible leadership approach tends to make far better use of other people’s skillsets and also keep motivation nearer the peak.
You get better results from other people when you openly communicate agendas and priorities, answer questions in full, and generally limit the secrecy that plagues so many old-style team efforts.
This more transparent approach to leadership tends to build trust between the people on your team, which in turn leads to higher levels of motivation and greater depth of contributions to the team effort.
The more effectively you build trust, the more often you’ll find team-members willing to fully engage with you and the projects you’re driving forward.
Trust is also essential for good communication, honest feedback, and open collaboration within the team.
Old-style leadership was all about running a tight ship, with everyone restricted to specific roles, responsibilities and – often unspoken – expectations.
But psychological research now shows that people live up – or down – to other people’s expectations. That’s why loosening your expectations of the people you’re leading allows for larger contributions, extra creativity, and surprisingly positive results.
Instead of trying to figure who’s best suited and what’s likely to happen, focus more on asking for help, allowing others to drive methods and tactics, and lettings tasks, projects, and responsibilities develop and evolve without pushing and pulling them into the expected shape you start with.
The goal is to empower individuals to do and be their best. Within limits, this approach generally requires you to say “yes” a lot more often than “no,” and to say “let’s try it” rather than “that’s not how we do things around here.”
Effective leadership is all about encouraging rather than discouraging the people you lead, and to support them in expressing themselves in ways that produce top quality results and higher levels of productivity.
By practicing a more collaborative, free-wheeling style of leadership, you set the stage for leveraging more productivity and success from the efforts of other people.
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