We are in a study and discussion of Gary Burnison’s recently published book titled, The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership. Burnison is CEO of Korn/Ferry International, the world’s largest executive search firm.
Burnison writes, “The first challenge for any leader is to take charge.” I am assuming you have done that.
Burnison then makes a crucial clarifying statement:
“Taking charge doesn’t mean telling people what to do or what to think, but rather telling them what to think about – in other words, the why as well as your intent, which will have to be carried out many times over.”
Many leaders can and should improve in this crucial area of leadership. There are far too any leaders telling people what to do or what to think, rather than telling their team what to think about – the why as well as your intent.
Yes, there are emergencies and crises wherein the leader must tell people what to do in order to avoid chaos and deadly confusion. However, for a well-led team, these times are infrequent, and virtually impossible to anticipate. The best and most vivid example might be 9-11-01.
As Burnison writes: “Leadership requires making crisp decisions and explaining your intent so that others can carry it out.”
What about you? Do you frequently tell people what to do? Do you frequently tell people what to think? Don’t dismiss these questions too fast! One of the easiest leadership traps to fall into is the habit of telling people what to do or what to think. For tens of millions of people, telling people what to do and what to think comes very naturally. And to break this destructive habit is far more difficult than many leaders realize.
Take charge by explaining to your people the why of what they should be thinking about. Great people will get the job done – they will make great things happen – if they understand the why of your vision, mission, goals and objectives. Arm and inspire your people with clarity as to why what you request or suggest is important!
Tell them why – turn them lose – they will make great things it happen!