A fully developed and successful leader gives others
the opportunity to take responsibility for the totality of who they are,
not just a tiny fragment of it.
Leading others is a complex balance of your capacity to lead, the willingness of others to follow you, and the situation you face. Aspiring to motivational leadership is admirable, but we face realities that demand judgments, decisions and actions that are immediate, pragmatic and necessary.
As leaders we must engage the whole person of those whom we lead. However, the goal is to be fair, not just nice, and to treat people equitably, not just equally, because not all people are the same. We must celebrate difference and nurture the value that each person brings to the situation.
As leaders we must recognize that we do not actually “manage people”; that is the fallacy embedded in corporate governance authorities and reporting structures. Nor can we manage or even expect to change human behavior; that is the fallacy embedded in codes of conduct, codes of ethics, codes of corporate social responsibility, and even standard operating procedures, among so many other codes that authorities conceive of.
Individuals, even the most loyal and committed, will always find ways to “go around” the rules and cope with the mechanisms. Humans are ingenious and creative that way. Yet, given any situation, humans also crave clarity – of intent, purpose, process, expectation, with established objectives and goals:
- What do you want me to do? What am I getting into?
- Why should I do it? What’s the point? Is there a purpose to this?
- Who else is doing this? What are their strengths?
- How do you want me to do it? Why should I do it that way?
- Is there a better way? An alternate way? Or only one way?
- How do I know we reached the goal we set out for?
- Where is the end point? When do we stop?
- What does success look like?
All too often, we work with assumptions: we assume
- that people automatically know what to do and how to do it;
- that they understand what we are saying and the directions we give;
- that they remember what needs to be done and how to do it after trying it only once;
- that each situation is the same and subject to plug and play actions without forethought or plan or other considerations.
We rarely examine our assumptions. We presume that all working situations align to standard procedures, and all people act and react in the same ways. That is the lie behind all management theory.
Despite our best efforts to rationalize, organize, categorize, standardize, optimize, operationalize, compartmentalize, and strategize, we fail to recognize that reality is both complex and random. To put “leading others” into perspective, a new born baby does not come with a user’s manual.
Complexity is natural, as natural as a new born child. Complications arise when we fail to recognize the inherent complexity of the business we engage in and the people we lead. There are no simple solutions. There are many options and different strategies to be implemented, depending on the situation and the people we engage with. Whatever the plan, reality is unpredictable. Being prepared for the “what if” is about managing risk and being resilient. Our strength is not our ability to avoid risks, but in our ability to recover from the impact of risks.
To explore the complexity of leading others, you have two options from which to choose:
Join me to explore Team Dynamics, learn how to build and lead effective teams. Gain a perspective on how leaders shape team performance, how cognitive biases impair decision making, and how teams can improve their decision-making. Read more about this module here.
Take up the leadership challenge with Leading to Succeed: gain insights into your capacity to lead, hone your leadership skills, and develop as a leader.
The Logistics Institute