One of the primary goals of leadership is to help others makes decisions on their own.
One of the greatest challenges of leadership is to allow the space for others to make decisions on their own.
This paradox is beautifully illustrated in this passage. Jesus already “had in mind what he was going to do.” He could have just taken the bull by the horns, told them to grab a few fish and loaves from the boy, and worked His magic. Instead, He asked a beautiful coaching question: What are you going to do?
If you are consulting or managing in the old-school traditional sense, you are going to tell them what to do and how you want it done. I mean, the reason we are in charge is because we knew what to do more often and with greater success than the other blokes. But what he does here is incredibly gracious:
- He gives them an opportunity to figure out on their own
- Doesn’t even respond to the disbelief of one
- Takes the meager offering of another
- Fashions a solution out of their offering
Having allowed them to wrestle with the problem. Already knowing the solution.
He came through and reminded them, even more powerfully, who He was. He was empowering them for the inevitable day He wouldn’t be there.
Some things I commonly hear from leaders:
- If I want it done right, I have to do it myself.
- I can’t trust anyone else to do it “right.”
- I can’t get anyone to step up and handle things.
- I’m sick of babysitting my employees.
These are most likely not employee competency issues, but leadership issues. Those are also likely the statements that autocrats with un-empowered teams would make.
Let’s face it. I can change the license plates on my car far faster than my young son. It would even be easier if I gave him the right tool and told him how to complete the task. But I would rob him of the opportunity to face a task he has never faced, figure out the tool and process required, and the sense of satisfaction of getting the job done. (I also wouldn’t have to go back and tighten the screws so that the plate doesn’t fall off!)
Next time. Next task. He will be able to do something more challenging and with less instruction. It is the same with teams I lead vocationally. Only after we have given them the chance to meet the task, given them the resources they think they need, do we step in to provide the solution. It is the most crucial and most difficult thing I do as a leader.
- Are you crippling others with your leadership?
- Are you cultivating the leadership of others?
- Are you sick and tired of doing everything yourself?
- What are you prepared to do about that?