Have you ever worked with a manager or supervisor who has to be right about everything? All the time? They can’t just leave well enough alone. Sound familiar? Maybe they gave you a task, saying, “Go do this thing. Let me know how it’s going, and report back when you’re done.”
So you went. You did the thing. You checked in and presented your report as instructed.
And then…Your supervisor insisted on editing your work for style and opinion, not structure or substance. They changed it to be what they wanted it to be without giving you (or your team) the freedom to do it your own way.
As leaders, a big problem arises when we have to be right all the time: it robs others of their agency, ownership, and ambition to do great work independently.
Our objective as leaders should be to empower people and create our replacements that are competent, capable, and able as leaders to pick up and move on if/when we’re no longer here to do the leading.
The inability to bring this to a team is a huge part of how leaders create dysfunctional teams. They create a dependency. They tell everyone how they’re wrong. It reduces people’s willingness to take initiative and be creative.
Here’s the way I see it: don’t ask me to do something if you’re just gonna turn around and do it your way, anyway.
As leaders, we need to check in with ourselves and whether we’re truly leading — or merely dictating. We need to separate style from substance.
Are you teaching and educating to build a better structure? To create more clarity? Or are you arbitrarily insisting that your team use green ink over blue?
We might think we’re smarter, better, more educated, more tenured than the others on our team… and that we know things they don’t know. But don’t let hubris get the better of you. Remember to humble yourself with insatiable curiosity.
If there is no substantive problem with the work your team is doing, let them run with it. Having the ability to solve a problem and being given the space and the permission to actually run with the solution is incredibly empowering for your team. Don’t rob them of that.
Even if what you think you’re right about is true, who gives a hoot? All the people under you will never gain the sense of accomplishment and empowerment if you run roughshod all over their ideas, if you never let them have the experience.
We rarely learn from what works well. We often learn from what goes poorly.