If you live your life honestly and truthfully, you’ll be open and transparent, which leads to trust.
– HH Dalai Lama
It is common among better leaders to take a step back from the perils of micromanagement, but the concept of control is still accepted and even expected. When we attempt to control every scenario and possible outcome we fall into a bottomless “what if” pit – and end up spending more time and effort on contingency development than it would have taken to handle an unexpected situation. At the same time, employees feel undervalued – which is an accurate assumption since in control environments the power of their brains is not being utilized to its potential.
The purpose of a leader is to define and manage principles and vision – in effect creating the guardrails of the wide superhighway, not drive the car. Respect your employees by giving them the control to develop and execute the plans required to drive down the highway. Mentor and provide oversight, don’t try to execute. Allowing employees to do their job requires trust and acceptance that there may be multiple paths to complete a task. Providing a safe environment for acceptable risk and even occasional failure creates learning opportunities and growth – another aspect of respect.
Trust is also created by being authentic, which I already discussed. Listen without judgment and engage in real discussion. Hold yourself to a high character, ethical, and moral standard, and admit when you fail. Model good behavior and do what you say you will. Know what matters and show appreciation in a way that impacts people as individuals.
When I was dealing with a difficult family medical situation and had to effectively be out of the office for a couple weeks at a time, often unable to even have a phone conversation, I had to trust my team to manage a complex medical device business. They did. Sure, I might have done some things differently, but not necessarily more optimally. Occasionally the guardrails had to be tweaked or narrowed, but it was rare. How liberating it was for me, during that time of crisis, and afterwards, to be able to trust my team!
How can you lead, personally and professionally, by doing less? What more could you accomplish by relinquishing control and trusting others to do their jobs? Can the value of leadership be redefined so less is actually more?