No B.S. Coaching Advice

The Single Most Important Lesson of Leadership

I remember being hired to lead a men’s retreat some years ago. I traveled to a part of the country had I had not been in for quite some time and ran into problems right away. It is going to be cold in the meeting room was unheated. The staff was resistant to making a change. “We’ve always done it this way.” I wanted to change the layout of how the facility was going to be used to one where the workshop was going to be done in a heated room.

I directed people to make a change. I made that mistake. I didn’t ask for input. I told him what I wanted. I managed them. I didn’t lead them.

I didn’t ask them what the effect of the workshop would be if the attendees were being asked to be in the building where the temperature might get to 40°. I didn’t ask them if they would want to attend a workshop under those conditions and whether they would develop resistance if they did.

No, I told him I wanted to make a change and they did grudgingly.

It all turned out well and the staff turned a corner pretty early on after the attendees started to arrive. But I made the mistake of creating an adversarial relationship with them, rather than engaging them in the thought process that would lead them to the same conclusion I had already arrived at.

When I think of the basic differences between being a manager and a leader, the one that comes to mind is that managers make people do things and leaders inspire people to get things done. Leaders tap into the internal quality of desire that people have. Managers force people to do things.

How that shift occurs between managing and leading usually is derived from one moment of realization. It is the moment where a person realizes that they are the most intelligent person in the room or that they know the most about the subject of anyone in the room or that they are the most important person in the room. There comes a realization that other people know better and that it’s important to tap into them rather than expecting to have all the answers yourself.

I acted like the smartest person in the room but didn’t use my intelligence to enroll people and help them get to the same conclusion I got to.

Instead, I told him what to do. BIG MISTAKE!

I’ve learned and sometimes slip into old patterns because, at times, I am impatient.

My impatience is proof that I’m not as smart as I think I am because if I was, I would use my smarts to bring people along on the journey with me instead of yanking them and making them come along with me.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is Career Angles | Jeff Altman, The Big Game Huntera member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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