An article in Harvard Business Review says that “Leadership is more than interpersonal skills“. That said, you jolly well better have good interpersonal skills if you want to get people “…to do what you want because they want to do it”. We need to stop having such divided minds and start recognizing that in many things, we actually need to integrate and not further dissect. Where convictions are concerned, there has to be this or that, and so on, but in many other cases, it is usually this and that.
Take character and competence, for example. It’s astounding how many people still talk about them as if a leader can afford to have one but not the other. Leaders need to have both, make no mistake about that! Ask me to choose one and of course I will choose character, since leaders with good character will either make sure they get the competencies which they might be lacking or find people who have those competencies! So when I see articles like the one highlighted above appearing in things like Harvard Business Review, I can’t help but my hackles start rising.
Leaders need to know when to lead. They also need to know when to follow even when they are still in charge. Most importantly, they need to know when to Get Out Of The Way (GOOTW) when necessary.
You lead when you are in charge and you have the technical know-how and competence. You show your people what to do and how to do it, supervise them well, and make yourself available if your training is Not Up To Standard (NUTS). You know if your training of your people is NUTS if they have to keep coming back and asking about stuff you’d already trained them on. If your training was good, your team selection was NUTS, so go back to the drawing board! So, here, when you’re in charge, take charge and show your people how to do it!
You follow when you are in charge but someone else has the technical expertise. If you can’t drive the boat but still need to get your team to the other shore, you tell the boat driver what you want done. The boat driver will tell you whether you can get to the other shore in half an hour or whether you need to wait two hours more until the tide is high enough to avoid dangerous rocks. You don’t drive boats and you don’t know how to get around dangerous rocks, so you listen to the boat driver. This is an example of when a leader ought to know when to follow.
So when do you GOOTW? When your people are so good at executing, they don’t need you there. When you’ve developed such great systems that the systems actually help people do their jobs better. In fact, if you’ve got good people, they will demand that you GOOTW because you have got other things to do like dream about the next quantum leap the company is going to make, and they want you doing just that so they get a share of the harvest as well!
Got it? Good! Now get out of the way!