Ever watch a professional football game on television? The head coach paces back and forth along the sidelines, delivering plays, processing information he receives through his headset from other coaches, and patting players on the back in recognition of their hard work.
Through it all, the coach is at the center of a vigorous tornado of activity. He never loses sight of what's happening on the field. He's always ready to throw the challenge flag to dispute a referee's call or make the decision to go for it on fourth down. A good head coach conveys such an impression of involvement with each play that we wouldn't be surprised to see him put on the pads and head out on to the field himself.
For coaches and their players, teamwork is much more than a metaphor: it's their entire philosophy. But the coach's role is to lead the team from the sidelines. Coaches can't step onto the field. The boundaries are defined.
But if you want to be a leader who truly inspires, you can't be content to stay on the sidelines. You'll need to maintain a strong leadership role while interacting with your team members. If you're on the sidelines, bellowing out orders while your team does all the heavy lifting, you're not going to experience the unity that comes from a leader actively engaging in the task.
At the same time, you were put in charge for a reason. So what's the dividing line between leading by example and being a micromanager who undermines his team by hovering over everything it does?
Allowing your employees a level of autonomy demonstrates trust and confidence in the group. By establishing your expectations of what your team needs to do, you show your knowledge of its work, as well as your confidence in its ability to meet your expectations. If you make sure that it has the resources that it needs, you'll be successfully involved in the entire process without having to micromanage. Did you know that, according to a study by leadership training organization Leadership IQ, two-thirds of employees feel they don’t have enough interaction with their bosses? That means that the people who work for you want to hear from you. Now, how can you deliver on that connection and maximize the strength of your team?
Never underestimate the role that motivation brings to a group. The leader who inspires his or her team demonstrates that a team is worth more than the sum of its parts. At the same time, individual abilities, when recognized and appreciated, give the group its unique identity. Notice the contributions of the people that you lead; in return, they'll appreciate your insights.
It's always a good idea to emulate the experts. Entrepreneur Richard Branson explains, "Those who work for a leader don’t do things because they are told to, but rather because they are attracted to a vision that inspires their creativity, energy and dedication." He says that the key to effective leadership is found in identifying people who can expand their existing abilities.
By working from within the circle rather than outside of it, you can enhance the results of your team's labor, and help your employees realize their individual potential. The possibilities of "us" far outweigh the limited abilities of "me," and a visionary leader turns that pronoun into the first building block of a dynamic team.
If you're a leader, what has been your experience of balancing autonomy and involvement in your team? Did you get it right? Let us know and join in the discussion below!
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