the empowering leader

Posted on 11:00 AM by dave

David was a good sales leader.  He had his finger on the pulse of the industry that he had faithfully served for over 20 years.  David knew all the right people to talk to and knew how to get the job done.  David could rally his team toward a common purpose by effectively promoting the corporate goals and quotas.  David was the ideal manager.

But David did not have a lot of supporters.

Maybe you've had someone like this within your organization.  They thrive in the business dialogue.  In fact, every conversation has something to do with numbers, quotas, deadlines.  One glimpse of sharing a personal story is met with some remark about dedication to the team.  They understand the direction of the company and listen to their team but something seems to be missing.  

They suffer from a risk issue.  They do not know how to effectively advocate for their team and lack the authority to empower others thus crippling their own influence.  They are the disempowering leader.

They support their team but do not champion their team.  They too manifest intelligence and education but do not embody understanding and discernment as leaders.

The main challenge that David faced in his leadership ability is the lack of championing his team.  This can typically be due to fear of losing rank or title.  Leaders with this deficiency believe a fallacy that allowing others the freedom to express themselves will jeopardize their own influence.  Quite often the opposite is true.  If our team does not sense that we would be willing to risk FOR them then they will become skeptical and disenfranchised.  The leader MUST be willing to risk for the team if the team is going to be willing to risk for the leader.

Mark did this extremely well.

Utilizing his understanding of his team, Mark risked his position and authority so that his team's voice was heard.  Why?  Because he told them he would and he empathized with their needs and concerns.  This lead to an unbreakable bond between leader and team that resembled a family-like cohesiveness.  The team was then willing to move forward with the organizational goals because they believed in their leader, even though they were mostly opposed to the overall corporate direction.

Tim, from my "connected leader" post, also exhibited this leadership quality. 

During times of dramatic corporate restructuring, he initiated weekly conference calls to keep in touch with his team and created an environment of authenticity and honesty.  Through his own transparency, he invited everyone to be heard and then initiated conversations on behalf of his team with the top decision makers.  He was willing to champion the team's causes.

Tim and Mark were empowering leaders.

Let's be honest, the potential downside as a leader is that we may lose our currently leadership role. That's reality.  Organizational decision makers do not typically like to be challenged on directional goals.  So we must ask ourselves- what might happen if we risk for our team?  Well, the bigger question to deal with is this: what would happen if we didn't take that risk?  How would our team support us in the future?

A leader is only as strong as their team.  If the team begins to suspect that the leader is no longer willing to fight FOR them then they will find someone else who will... and usually with another organization.