We often forget what it’s like to be human when we run a team, a department or even an organisation. By the time we get to the top, we have transitioned in so many ways that it may be difficult to remember how we want to show up as a leader. Yet there is no better time to truly be yourself than when you step into the role of leadership.
In my 30-year-long career I have learned that the more autonomy you allow others, the better the results for everyone. The more you impinge on their freedom to be who they are (within reason), the less you get in return – from their loyalty to their desire to do their best. The more you respect people as capable of intelligent thought and contribution, the more you tend to experience this type of contribution from them.
I had the privilege of lunching with Dr. Anthony Howard and a few other thinkers the other day. Anthony is a remarkable man whose quest in life (paraphrased) is to infuse humanity into business, as he details in his book humanise. In addition to many other morsels of wisdom that Anthony imparted on that day, he reminded us of the distinction between leaders who are Diminishers and those who are Multipliers (as more fully described in the book Multipliers by Liz Wiseman).
Simply put, these are leaders who believe they are the smartest person in the room and lead from the position of singular knowledge. These leaders are excellent at telling others exactly what to do and how to get it done. And this does sometimes deliver the results that they intend. But it fails to tap into others’ experience. This approach doesn’t leave much space for creativity, flexibility, or autonomy. It doesn’t invite diverse insights and often ignores our individual capacity to think for ourselves.
Multipliers are people who make others feel smart. They lead by motivating and engaging others to get the task done. They encourage, guide and facilitate. They listen, explain and support. Above all, they believe in the human spirit and our strength to think and solve for ourselves. And the results of success for this type of leadership are astounding.
(This type of leadership is also a facet of what I call Inclusive Leadership.)
People want to be respected as human beings. They want work to be a fulfilling and engaging activity. They want to know how they contribute to the ultimate success of the team and the business, and they want to learn, develop and grow.
If we as leaders value and honour these needs, we will, in turn benefit from people’s finest thinking. And while it sounds like a simple thing to do, it rarely is. Motivating others can be a challenge in and of itself, but if you are the kind of leader who values others as human beings and focuses on delivering on this personal value, it will be a worthwhile and fruitful pursuit for everyone involved.