Posts Tagged ‘Empowerment’

The true mark of leadership – got the guts to follow?

May 10, 2010 // No Comments » // Leadership Infusion | Stories Retold

I got this interesting video clip from YouTube and thought of a similar lesson learned…some years ago.

In 2004, I facilitated a management retreat that consist of eight senior management staff and several middle managers from a healthcare organization. The kind of retreat that people gather, get to know one another, talk and discuss, plan for the year ahead and some team-building exercise to basically learn something about themselves while having fun.

For one such team-building activity, the team were given a challenge to step on a series of numbers on the ground at the quickest possible time in a certain sequences which all the number-pads were marked out with tape at a certain distance. One of the rules implied that every member in the team will have to at least step once along with some other rules which the team have to comply…if not, the team will have to go back to the re-starting line. As the team has only 6 opportunities to complete the task with the best possible score (time), each unsuccessful try was becoming very intense for them especially so for the “leader” of the group.

On the last opportunity to ‘get it right’, the COO (Chief Operation Officer) planned to be standing right beside one of the team member who was ‘considered’ the weakest link because she was always slow in stepping her number pad. True to the COO worst fear, when the time came for the ‘weak-link’ to execute her task, she was so overwhelmed by the pressure to perform that she froze momentarily (which in turn wasting precious seconds). In that split moment, what happened next became a great learning point for the team; the leader himself physically carried the petite lady by her waist and just like ‘stamping’ a gigantic rubber-stamp on a passport, forcing her both feet unto the number-pad to complete her task! That action brought laughter all around including the poor lady and what followed during the debrief was very memorable for everyone…including me.

During the sharing session, the leader was full of thoughts and admitted that the eagerness to get the ‘result’ had got the better of him. When asked “Have you observed any behavior during the activity that is congruent to the behaviors back in the workplace?”

He spoke bravely: “Yes, the very behavior of me ‘carrying’ her to make sure that she complete her task was a realization of how I am most of the time guilty of being task oriented and not able to empower others; but more importantly I have often placed result and performance over and above all other thing that matters…especially the heart of the people…”

Silence followed after his sharing and I ceased the opportunity for their learning and asked: “Within the wisdom of this team, what matters and what’s possible?”

The leader continued: “Frankly, there is a lack of situational leadership within this organization and largely due to our zero tolerance of error. In that people becoming very dependable on ‘leaders’ making all decision…We can’t and this can’t continue. We need strong followers that are able to take risk and influence others to make things happen.” Wise words from deep learning…till today, he still head that organization and is now a member of parliament.

Are you in a position of leading but are adverse to others taking risk?

Do you think that leadership has been over-glorified and that there are few ‘affective’ followers in your organization?

Not sure? Let’s have a chat…