The Truth about, “Just Tell me What to Do.”

The traditional military model of leadership may be what people think of when they hear the the term leader.

Generals tell the rank and file what to do. “When I say jump. You say, “How high?”

Seven models of leadership:

  1. Shepherd – sheep.
  2. Politician – voters.
  3. Conductor – orchestra.
  4. Parent – child.
  5. Coach – athlete.
  6. Founder – follower.
  7. Designer – contractor – homeowner.

Factors for the best leadership style:

  1. Culture and context. 
  2. Circumstances. Crisis calls for more dictatorial styles of leadership.
  3. Skill and experience of team members. A conductor style of leadership might best suit a talented team.
  4. Skill and experience of the leader.
  5. Complexity of task. The more complex the task, the greater the need for an empowered workforce.

Shifting toward a coaching style of leadership:

Young workers desire coaching.

Older workers – who have less interest in personal development – prefer loose direction and autonomy. They want you to tell them what you want and then leave them alone.

Coaching or telling:

You might coach an employee to discover and choose their own solution.  You ask, “What are three possible solutions to this situation?

You might ask, “Which of your strengths are most applicable right now?”

When you shift toward coaching and away from commanding, you’ll hear, “Just tell me what to do.”

Employees who want you to tell them what to do are fearful, unskilled, or resistant.

  • Resistant employees don’t want you to tell them what to do. They want you to tell them what they want to hear.
  • Unskilled employees may need mentors or training.
  • Fearful employees may need to understand that failure is a learning opportunity.

Anyone who says, “Just tell me what to do,” resists ownership.

When someone says, “Just tell me what to do,” smile and say, “I’m telling you to come back with three options for this situation.” 

What model of leadership seems most useful in your culture and context? Why?

How might leaders effectively employ coaching as a leadership style?