If you are an engaged leader, a big part of your day is spent just being there for you people, being able to come through with helpful answers to their problems and clear direction for their projects. It feels good to be counted on as a leader. But what do you do when you don’t have the answer? What do you do when you don’t know the right direction to take? Do you fake it or do you keep it real by admitting it?
There are 3 major consequences to faking it:
1) You make things worse. Leaders that have more authority than competence, should keep their ideas out of it because your ideas probably suck and if adopted will make things worse than they are now. Use your authority to bless and encourage those with more competence than you. Think of it this way – you are the quarterback, you are not the running back and the tight end, etc. As quarterback, your job is to get the ball into the hands of the person who has the best opportunity to take it up the field for the team. Do not try to be an expert in all things, nobody is. If you want to serve your staff, don’t be a know-it-all, direct your people to others who have the right answers.
2) You lose influence over time. Eventually, people will see through your facade and over time they will begin to regard your answers as mere opinions,they will see your counsel as optional. When your staff come to you for an answer and you say to them, “Great question, I’m not sure of the best answer,” they will believe you when you say you DO have the answer.
3) You limit the contributions others can make. Hypocrisy means pretending to be something you are not. God made you exactly who you are with all of your gifts and strengths and quirks AND deficiencies. Your job, is to become the best version of yourself, not to become somebody else. Trying to be something you’re not, is the beginning of losing yourself and that’s bad enough. As leader, its doubly bad, because, in your attempt to be something you’re not, you keep others from shining where you don’t and they can.
1. All is Well that Begins Well: You gotta hire the right people – those whose behavior, prior to their employment with you, demonstrate passionate allegiance to your organizations’s core values. How much time is wasted in managing people that shouldn’t have been hired in the first place?
2. Manage by Sweet Spotting: Your organization has legitimate needs – opportunities to be leveraged and problems to be solved. Your staff have personal gifts and passions that they bring to work every day. Sweet Spotting means assigning authority and responsibility in a specific opportunity or problem that aligns to the passions and gifts of your staff. Loose them and let them go – management made easy! Its so simple, I feel like I’m insulting leaders that are reading this blog. My apologies!
3. Create Leaders, not Followers: Tom Peters may not have originated this idea but he made it popular. Your role as a leader is to make more leaders, not followers. Think of your management practice – the planning processes you facilitate, the delegation system you coordinate, the meetings you lead, the reports you require, etc. etc. Are they building leaders or followers? Remember – people that feel like leaders act like leaders and I’m guessing you want more leaders around your organization, right?
What would happen if you asked a room full of business executives, “Who is the leader you most admire?” Many would point to a former teacher or coach. Others might refer to a famous social reformer like Martin Luther King Jr. or even Mother Teresa. Very few would put a corporate leader at the top of their list. Ask the same executives to identify the quality most admired in their leadership heroes and many would have selfless service at the top of their list. Intuitively they know, authentic leadership means self-gift.
It’s ironic, that the quality most admired by business executives – selfless service – is all but ignored in the multi-billion dollar industry of corporate leadership development. Why? Because people won’t pay money to become a selfless person. However, they will pay money – lots and lots of money – to advance their career. Nothing wrong with advancing your career. And my beef is not with the techniques and principles taught in corporate training programs, my beef is that they have taken leadership – which is altruistic by nature – and perverted its meaning.
If you want to advance your career, go ahead and make the financial investment. Attend the conference, take the webinar, pay thousands of dollars for that quick fix distinction (read eMBA).
But if you want to be at the top of someone’s list of most admired leaders, learn to serve. Authentic leadership is about serving others, not being served.
In today’s Gospel we read about an all night fishing trip that yielded nothing for the apostle Peter and his band of brothers. When they came to shore in the morning, Jesus invited them to go out again. Peter reluctantly agrees, “Master, we have worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But at your command I will lower the nets.” Jesus gets in the boat and off they go.
Same lake, same boat, same fisherman and because Jesus has a sense of humour, the exact same spot they fished all night long and caught nothing, but drastically different results.
Scriptures says, “When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were breaking.” Jesus’ presence made all the difference.
The context of this story contains a rich meaning. Peter was doing what Peter had always done. But when he invited Jesus into the boat his ordinary activity yielded extraordinary results.
Jesus I invite you into my day. No matter how ordinary it may seem to me, I know your Presence makes all the difference.
Leaders challenge the process and push the edge. They take people to places they have never been; try things they’ve never done; see things they never noticed; attempt things they never considered possible. Thats what makes them leaders.
Often its all new for the leader too which is why leadership can feel like a walk in the dark.
It’s impossible to predict the future. Claiming to know the future, leaders lose credibility when the future they describe does not come to pass.
Great leaders spend their time creating the future, not predicting it. You create the future by taking one bold step after another into the darkness of uncertainty. Each step evaluated to inform the next.
Uncertainty is a constant in the landscape of leadership. Get used to it. In fact, if everything on your plate is certain, you probably stopped leading some time ago.
Keep moving forward, keep learning and never pretend to know more than you do.