Here’s the reaction you might be creating in your employees:

  • “So … if I’m a leader now, that means I can make your decisions for you now?”
  • “So … I don’t know what direction we’re going as a group!”
  • “I thought I was hired to DO work, not just to tell OTHERS what to do!”

Of course, this isn’t at all what you intended. Right? You were trying to communicate that you trust peoples’ initiative, that you don’t want them always waiting for direction from on high.

So you can see why people are confused.

What you’ve missed is clearly communicating the domain of leadership for each person. And you can’t just say “I expect you to lead in doing your job,” because that’s ambiguous. Peoples’ jobs overlap, and managers have a greater scope of leadership than their employees.

Just not as deep.

We have to get more specific than that, and the most powerful way is to give examples:

  • “I expect you to be responsible for your own work location and hours, setting expectations with others who are impacted by your availability.”
  • “I want you to make sure that you have all the tools you need to be productive. If you need more budget, that’s what I’m here for. And let me know if there’s something holding you up that I can help with.”
  • “This team is responsible for allocating its tasks and responsibilities for getting the project done. Let me know what help you need from me, particularly questions about project goals and negotiating with other teams to remove barriers.”

You can see that I’ve made major assumptions about the environment that we’re in, and that’s actually critical to my point. These are specific to what the organization is trying to do, and how it’s set up. For instance, there are plenty of organizations where letting workers set their own location and hours would be insane. For others, it’s necessary and even highly effective.

What are YOUR specific examples of how and where you’d like people to exhibit leadership?

This was first published in InnovatioNews.