Flipping the Switch that Develops Leaders
I asked Barry Posner, bestselling co-author of “The Leadership Challenge” if he was a leader. In a quiet, unassuming voice he said, “I’m a leader, follower, and a colleague.”
I asked Barry when he realized he was a leader? He said, “I can’t recall a specific time.” He thought while I waited,
“My parents always asked for my opinion.
They let me know my opinion mattered.”
I thought immediately of the first chapter in “The Truth about Leadership”. Posner, along with his colleague Jim Kouzes writes,
“Leadership begins when you
believe you can make a difference.”
The gift of listening ennobles and enables others.
Flipping the switch:
If leadership begins when you believe you matter, leadership development begins when you help others believe they matter.
Once you believe you matter
help others believe they matter.
Asking and listening helps people know they matter. Posner said, “Think of your worst boss. What made that boss the worst? They never asked for your opinion and when you spoke up, they didn’t listen.”
Helping others feel they matter:
- Follow them. Lead others into leadership by following them. Give them authority and follow their lead.
- See excellence as a process not a destination.
- Withhold insignificant criticisms.
- Train them.
- Celebrate progress.
Inspiration on helping others feel they matter from Facebook:
- See potential. Potential lies just below lack of confidence.
- Assign or elect to new positions.
- Look to them for their opinion.
- Give responsibility.
- Express gratitude for them.
The most powerful leadership
development tool is belief.
When did you realize you mattered?
What comes after believing in someone, in the leadership development process?
Must reading: “The Leadership Challenge”
I realized I was relevant after finding my own voice. For years I’d go along with the status quo. It wasn’t until I found my voice that I started saying the obvious; living closer to the edge. That’s when I saw the sparkle in their eyes. My leadership moment.
p.s. Huge fan of Kouzes and Posner. I love facilitating The Leadership Challenge.
Thank you Steve.
“I started saying the obvious.” I love that, Steve. What’s in my head and heart is obvious to me. Thanks for all you do!
“Leadership development begins when you help others believe they matter.” LOVE! It’s so true and so simply put. If you micromanage, people start to lose confidence. If you’re always looking over their shoulders, they’ll lose confidence. If you give them the task and let them know you trust them to do it, they’ll feel strong, capable and they’ll know that they’re making a difference. In short, they matter. I’m dealing with someone the moment who has the title of a leader, but he’s not allowing his team to take up their responsibilities. It’s quite tricky getting him to delegate in reality as well as in theory. I also made a point of congratulating and thanking my team in public. This had two effects – it made them feel appreciated and know that their efforts matter, but it also had the effect of making others think that I matter. I didn’t expect that at all and it made me feel fabulous 🙂
Thank you Vanessa.
Loads of insight in your contribution today. Your golden nugget that showing appreciation makes others think you matter is worth the price of admission… 🙂
I appreciate your points about leadership. I agree that leadership starts with the self belief. It also means overcoming lack of confidence situation. Many a times, people do not realize their potential. Even if they know it, it becomes difficult to belief that they can make a difference.When they believe it, leadership starts from there. In this sense, leadership is a journey. I realized when I start contributing to leadership freak and when I received the comment and appreciation by Dan and others as well. It actually helped me in two ways. First, it enhanced my creative thinking, and secondly it made me realized that what I write, matter. So, when you start realizing that what you know and experience matter, you start leading your life. Because it strengthen confidence to put forward your opinion.
But to develop that belief takes a lot of pain. Generally it starts with the pain. Pain provides you to prove yourself. In my case, there were circumstances that tested my potential. I was demoralized and even I questioned my potential. And that process took me to introspect. That introspection start transforming me.
Belief with introspection provides authenticity. Any belief without authenticity is not belief. Leaders have authentic belief and that makes all the difference.
Thank you Ajay.
I love it when you share your story with us. Very powerful and encouraging.
Thanks for adding the facing tests cycle to this conversation. Working through tests – helping others work through tests – creates confidence…realizing we matter.
Like leadership is a journey, realizing we matter is a journey too.
My work is with family owned and closely held businesses. One of the great shortcomings I often encounter, intergenerationally, is that the senior generation members have difficulty helping the younger feel they matter. The older leaders often have an inability to let go of power, even when the time has come and long gone. The advice above about how to do this is very helpful.
Thank you Mentor.
You made me realize that one of the ways we hold on to power is making others feel they don’t matter. KaPow!
Disdain and belittlement are powerful tools in the pathological attempt to hold onto power. The psychological hurt of a parent’s put downs are hard to overcome, are they not?
Mentor: Sometimes I think what is happening is the reverse. The senior doesn’t feel the younger appreciates them or respects what they still can bring to the table and until they feel this, they can’t let go. It has to go both ways for each to feel relevant.
Doreen, you are so right, it’s a two way street. I’m working on an article now with a psychologist friend about the two sides of this equation. It is a tightrope journey in many power relationships. Appreciation, built through trust and communication, are key.
Great post Dan! I am a huge fan of Posner and Kouzes…
I have found in a number of my organizational clients – the bright and young are often hired on (or promoted “up”) with great expectations to ‘grow into’ their management roles and often fall into the “I’m the manager now and so I (have to) know everything” trap – which leads to an insecurity and fear that they don’t actually know (bits of “Leadership and Self-Deception” show up)…. that is then reflected in their behavior with their teams – in exactly the way you describe it – they don’t listen and they certainly don’t make their staff feel like they matter.
I guess what I’m saying is that a leader can’t “flip that switch” for others until they are self-aware enough to flip it first for themselves!
I’m grateful every day for the wisdom you gather and share here on this blog!
Wow! Really enjoyed this post! The quote: “My parents always asked for my opinion.
They let me know my opinion mattered.” really hit home. Seeing as that was not my personal experience growing up, it explained so clearly why leadership as well as self-expression in general, was extremely challenging, and always fraught with fear and insecurity. After loads of personal work, all that is happily changing. 🙂 Love your blog and all that you, and the great community you’ve attracted here share on a daily basis! Thanks!!
Thanks so much, Dan. One of the things we must do is to let go so that others will grow. Showing someone you trust their ability, letting them know they can ask for guidance if they need it, then letting them tackle the task without interference is one of the true marks of leadership. You must be willing to let go – to let someone else grow. True leaders build confidence in others to help them develop into leaders.
This is awesome! Love it! “Leadership begins when you believe you can make a difference” – I’m a big believer that everyone has a story to share and can help others with that story. I’ve been one to believe that I had nothing to offer, but after I’ve learned to follow my passion everything has seemed to make sense to me. I fully feel the Aloha spirit constantly around me. Aloha!
Dan, Thank You! Fantastic post
Great post Dan, thank you!
When did I realize I had leadership potential? Great question.
It has an odd answer. I was raised in a dysfunctional family- a fact that embarrassed me then and even sometimes now. I was about 10 when i realized I was the most mature person in my home. No, I’m not exaggerating. This isn’t the best environment in which to grow up, but in a way, it does build confidence and responsibility.
What comes after believing in someone in the leadership process? You have to remind them of your belief in them when they hit challenges and setbacks. Yesterday I had lunch with a twenty-one year old former student. He was telling me about his difficulties he encountered in his recent summer job. When he finished, I pointed out to him all the right choices he had made in response to his situation. I also recounted all the good quailities I had recognized in him even in high school. When we stuggle is when we have to be reminded of our strengths by others.
Four decades of age separate my former student and me. But anyone will listen when you see their assests and are willing to take the time to verbalize them. Now I know his leadership potential will continue to flourish.
It definitely means a lot when I am asked about some project with the : ‘what do you think?’ question. Gives a lot of room for discussion. sometimes it’s hard to shift from an ‘authoritative’ management style to a ‘democratic’one. There’s always a feeling to keep the security blanket!