The traditional view of leadership is the commander. Commanders give orders, set rules, and direct others. It’s a command and control model of leadership based on the idea that people will do the wrong things unless told what to do.
However, real leadership is not about telling people what to do. The most effective leaders don’t tell anyone what to do. They lead by example, inspire others to take action, and create an environment that creates a movement of people pursuing a common purpose.
Command Does Not Scale Well
Command-based leadership might work on a small scale in situations that don’t require people to think for themselves. But those situations are few and far between.
Leaders who rely on a top-down approach to management face numerous problems. When leaders focus on giving orders, they create an environment where people are more likely to feel demotivated, disengaged, and disempowered. This is because people do not like being told what to do. They want to be able to contribute their ideas, insights, and perspectives.
Another problem with traditional leadership is that it can lead to a culture of compliance. When leaders are focused on telling people what to do, they are not creating an environment that fosters creativity and innovation. People become focused on following rules rather than exploring new ideas and taking risks. This limits growth and stifles progress.
The Benefits of Leading Without Telling
Real leaders understand that leadership is not about giving orders. It’s about inspiring others to take action, fostering growth and development, and creating an environment that supports creativity and innovation. Here are some of the benefits of leading without telling:
- Unlocking Human Potential: When leaders empower their teams to take ownership of their work, they create an environment where people feel valued and respected. This sense of ownership can lead to greater engagement and productivity.
- Fostering Creativity: When leaders encourage their teams to explore new ideas and take risks, they create a culture of creativity and innovation. This can lead to new solutions, products, and services that can help organizations stay ahead of the competition.
- Inspiring Action: When leaders lead by example, they inspire their teams to take action. By demonstrating a commitment to excellence and a willingness to take risks, leaders can motivate their teams to do the same.
- Creating Trust: When leaders create an environment where people feel empowered and valued, they build trust. This trust can lead to greater collaboration, communication, and teamwork.
Leading Without Telling in Practice
So, how can leaders lead without telling? Here are some strategies:
- Lead by example: Effective leaders demonstrate the behavior they want to see in others. They are transparent, honest, and accountable. They model responsibility by responding with intent.
- Foster responsibility: Everyone has responsibility, that is, the ability to choose how they respond. Make it clear to them that they are always responsible whether they act or not – action is a response, and not acting is also a response. Treat people like adults and expect them to be responsible.
- Lead with questions: People will take your lead if you ask the right questions. They will look for answers and figure things out for themselves.
- Set boundaries that empower others: Effective leaders set boundaries that make it safe for people to take ownership of their work, make decisions, and take risks.
- Encourage creativity: They encourage their teams to explore new ideas and take risks. They create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives. And provoke innovative thinking by challenging people to imagine new worlds that work in new ways.
- Communicate effectively: They communicate clearly and frequently. They actively listen to their teams and respond to their needs.
In Short – Lead With Purpose, Not Commands
Real leadership is not about telling people what to do. It’s about connecting people to purpose, inspiring others to take action, fostering growth and development, and creating an environment that supports creativity and innovation. Leaders who lead without telling empower their teams, foster creativity, inspire action and build trust.
That is the kind of leadership that scales.