Resourceful Leadership

April 30, 2011

This short clip from the movie “We Were Soldiers” is one of the best examples of leadership I’ve found on film. I apologize for the film quality, but the lesson is valuable and worth your time. Here are my summary points from the film clip.

  • Stop blaming people and teach them how to identify and solve the systemic sources of their problems
  • Don’t remove performance expectations; instead, help folks meet and exceed those expectations
  • Accept the person even when you can’t accept the performance
  • You are a resource – never do the work for them

The goal of leadership should be to produce purposeful, autonomous employees that are interdependent with you, never dependent upon you. This is a process that takes time, effort, and continuous learning. The process starts with continually holding yourself accountable for your own self-development as a person and as a leader, then holding yourself accountable for helping those you’ve been given the privilege to lead become increasingly more autonomous and self-accountable.

Teach your folks how to solve problems and resist with every fiber of your being the temptation to do the work for them. Paternalistic leadership might make you feel good about yourself, but it makes your followers dependent upon you, and that’s not good for either them or you.

See yourself as a resource, not “the source”. Leadership liberates others by enabling them to find meaning and full responsibility in their roles. If you insist on trying to be an oracle of leadership, your folks will never reach their full potential, which means you will never reach your full potential and your organization will be mired in mediocrity.

Never get the socks and powder for your folks (from the film). Hold yourself accountable for leading others in a way that encourages and enables them to do it for themselves.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Karl Borris says:

    Not stepping in to do your employee’s work is hard for many of us. The loss of control can be unbearable sometimes! As long as outcomes are clearly defined and a monitoring system is in place, you should get the results you desire.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Karl! The paradox is that giving up control is the key to multiplying your influence. Thanks! Bret