I’ve been challenged several times to sum up everything I know about leadership in as few words as possible. Here it is:
Leadership is sharing. A leader shares.
An effective leader is always looking for ways to share. You share power. You share authority. You share credit, recognition and of course whenever possible, you share the rewards produced by the collective efforts of you and the people you serve.
You also share the work along the way. The best leaders know you just can’t do it all by yourself. Be careful though––I’m not just talking about delegation here. Sharing goes to a much deeper and much more powerful level.
Delegation is simple. You identify people with the skills and talents to get the job done and you hand over the work. Of course you still supervise, check on progress and provide feedback through assessments and performance reviews. You also make sure the people charged with the task have the necessary tools, personnel and resources to be successful.
Sharing is a deeper partnership. It can start long before a task has even been imagined. It involves everyone on the team at every level. You look up, down and sideways to find people who can share in the creative process as well as in the tasking and implementation phases.
Let’s go back and break down exactly what you share and then talk more about how to do it.
Power, which is simply “Your ability or capacity to act or perform effectively.”
Power only expands through sharing. When you help others become more powerful––that is more able to perform effectively, the productive output of the team increases exponentially and your effectiveness as a leader increases too.
Credit and recognition often get lost in the shuffle. Each of us has had the experience of working hard on a project only to see someone else take a bow.
Doesn’t feel good, does it?
Let’s not do this to anyone we serve. It’s critical that everyone involved share in the credit for a job well done and they should be recognized for their contributions.
Sharing authority is also essential to this process, yet too often people are delegated to a task or project only to be micro-managed, or they simply aren’t given the authority they need to get the job done.
It should be obvious that sharing material rewards is part of the bargain, but all too often someone at the top gets a big bonus while the rest of the team gets a pat on the head. Find ways to share the wealth––not so much as an “incentive,” but as a meaningful expression that you’re all part of something bigger than any individual, even those at the top. After all, you certainly ask everyone to pitch in when times are tough, don’t you?
How to implement these ideas is far less complex than most leaders make it. The first step is to simply keep your mind and heart open and to actively look for opportunities for sharing. What power and authority can you share with others? What opportunities for creativity, innovation and implementation?
General George Patton gave us this clear action plan for sharing:
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
We could spend some time digging into all the applications of this simple philosophy, but what’s most important is to see the fundamental principle at work: sharing. And sharing is based on trust.
People exceed expectations and perform at their fullest potential when they share in the creation and implementation of a vision––and when they feel trusted.
This requires a great deal of personal courage and strength on the part of the leader. You’ve got to believe that sharing is not a threat to your power and authority, but is instead the only way to truly expand your own. If power is truly your ability to get things done, you get a lot more done when you share power and authority than when you try to protect it.
Here’s the “checklist.” Whenever a new idea, challenge or opportunity arises, take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself these simple questions:
Who can I share this with?
How much authority can I share?
How much autonomy can I allow?
How much control do I really need?
And to keep yourself in check, ask this one final question:
How much of this can I really do by myself?
Let’s have one more go at the idea of sharing the credit. In our merit driven environment, it feels important to make sure you get the credit you deserve. Look at our most effective leaders, however, and you find people who don’t need the credit at all. They know that hoarding credit only creates discontent and resentment. Instead, they see recognition as a powerful inspirational resource that should be shared generously and that sharing credit pays handsome dividends.
“A leader is best when the people barely knows he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say we did it ourselves!”
Nothing new. Lao Tzu wrote those words about 2,500 years ago––and we feel the same way today!
So it all comes down to this––find more ways to share and you will continue to grow into an ever more effective leader…
Leadership is sharing. A leader shares.