There are thousands of blogs, books, and leadership training classes that espouse the wisdom of teaching and inspiring, rather than doing and telling. I won’t attempt to cover that broad topic here, but I will discuss my personal version of those lessons. It was hard for me to learn to lead by guiding, rather than forcing, because I am impatient and typically have a clear idea of how I want something done. Early in my leadership career, I was sure that if everyone just followed my lead and did it my way, we’d get the quickest and best results. But the result was predictably good, and not great.
One of the leaders I worked for, who was very successful and wise, taught me the value of leading by guiding, rather than forcing. He showed me how guiding was a better way to have more impact at scale. He taught me how to inspire people, and keep them engaged, by showing them the vision and the path, and letting them come to it in their own way. He showed me how fewer, carefully chosen words can have maximum influence. He taught me the value of listening carefully before choosing those words, and how listening encourages reflection to ensure strong convictions. He showed me how quiet can have more impact than loudness, and how sometimes silence has the most impact of all. He taught me the value of Socratic questioning to encourage critical thinking. Thank you DAS for teaching me how to guide.
Of course, there are times of urgency or crisis where you may need to resort to forcing in the short term. But recognize that this should be a last resort and an indication that something is wrong. Once the crisis passes, go back, identify, and fix the problem.