Make It Their Idea

by | Dec 8, 2016 | Influence | 0 comments

A friend of mine recounted a recent conversation with two of her daughter’s band coaches. The band was preparing for a national competition, and the routines were not going well. She walked up as the two leaders were having a charged conversation about the kids’ upcoming performance.

As a parent, she was torn between the benefits of her daughter’s competitive team experience and the stress it was adding to her life. The fact that this practice was on the evening that hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the Florida east coast made it even more surreal.

“How are you guys?” she interrupted. ‘Aren’t you glad we don’t live on the east coast? We might be wondering if we’re going to have a roof over our heads tomorrow.” One of the leaders smiled and said, “Yeah, it almost makes this competition unimportant.” After another minute she left—thankful that the tension level had reduced significantly.

Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it. Dwight Eisenhower

“And Your Point Is…?”

One of the more artful leadership behaviors is to convince others to take a course of action by making it their idea.

So What?

If you’re a parent, teacher, boss—any role that allows you to enforce compliance—you can exercise control. Not that positional power is inappropriate or control is immoral, but control is the most basic of leadership behaviors. It’s the easiest, and requires the least amount of skill to pull off. Anyone with positional power can exercise control and call it leadership.

Dwight Eisenhower once described leadership as getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it. This a higher order of influence, beyond exercising power; and ultimately it’s much more effective. When you can lead someone to adopt a strategy, value or approach where they believe they came up with the idea, then they own it. They will commit themselves at a much higher level.

The Big Picture

This approach takes skill and practice to do well. It also requires giving up ownership. Once the other person owns it, she will need the freedom to plan and execute it. If she doesn’t, it’s still your idea. She also should own the recognition when she is successful.

This might be part of why it’s so rare: Giving up the execution and the recognition is not easy. But great leadership—at its core—is all about making other people better.

Great leadership—at its core—is all about making other people better

If your strategy isn’t being embraced by others, what can you do to make it their idea?

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