Whether as a parent, manager, employee, or instructor, most of us will experience leadership at some point in our lives. However, leadership doesn’t come naturally to many of us. We don’t know how to get people to “do as they’re told,” we don’t feel worthy of being put in charge, and we’re not sure how to deal with a crisis when things go wrong. The thought of taking control of a group of people is terrifying. 

Luckily, there’s a powerful way of thinking that can help you be more effective in getting the very best out of your team members. Let’s look closer…

How Not to Approach Leadership

Many leaders make the mistake of believing that they need to “command” or “shape” their team members. Whether consciously or otherwise, they think of their team as some kind of dough that needs to be molded, which can cause a lot of resistance.

This mindset tends to lead to other mistakes as well.

We might approach leadership by thinking of ways to motivate our team – either with a carrot or stick (reward or punishment). 

This approach instantly creates tension. What is your natural reaction when told to do something? Very often, we feel a compelling urge to do the opposite thing!

But rewards can’t be all that bad, right?

Wrong!

Consider these disadvantages of when we work only for a reward:

  • It essentially removes the focus from work itself. Work is now a means to an end – and the end is the reward, which means we’ll focus on finishing that work as quickly as possible and not necessarily to the best of our abilities.
  • Research has shown that a reward can stifle creativity.
  • Always giving instructions (trying to mold your team members) also prevents your team from working independently of you.

A Powerful Alternative

The alternative, then, is to make the work itself into the incentive. The aim is to ensure that everyone on your team is enjoying working toward the same goals and that they want the same outcome as you.

Now there is no need to motivate – they are self-motivated.

Now there is no need to remind them what they should always be doing.

You’ve empowered your team! That means that you aim to reduce your influence and your role (which also happens to be good for your heart rate).

There are a few ways you can go about doing this:

  1. Give your team ownership. Give your team ownership over their projects. Let them take control and provide creative input. Give them credit where it is due. Make them proud to be completing work that has their name on it.
  2. Explain WHAT and WHY, not HOW. Instead of telling your team that they need to do X, instead inform them that you need to accomplish Y. Then they can decide how best to meet that goal, and they can adapt and be flexible as it suits them. 
    • Allowing your team to work the way that suits them best is a great way to ensure that they stay happy and motivated. That might mean offering flexi-time or letting them decide what order to tackle products in.

When you empower your team, your job becomes to nurture your team’s passions and skills – not to try and control their every move. And when you realize that, you’ll realize that there is no reason to be stressed!

With an empowered team, you can also expect superior results. This means that you’ve now become the influential leader that you never thought you could be! Congratulations on a job well done!