The Leadership Experiment

Back in college, one of my professors said, “A true leader eliminates the necessity for leadership”. Sounded like a paradox to me then; someone working to make their role redundant. Now I know he was talking about empowering one’s team; giving them the power to make decisions and letting them take accountability.

How do you command an army? Controlling every man, like you do in Age of Empires, will result in you losing every battle. Much like that, you cannot poke your nose into everything that your team members do. You have to give them autonomy. They might end up making a few mistakes, but that’s OK. Your ultimate goal is to get them to a point where they do not need you to give them instructions everyday. You have to trust them, and their ability to learn from mistakes. This will help you focus on the bigger picture – review and change processes to improve the efficiency of your team.

Now I don’t have an army. I have a team of 7 and they have around 18 projects each. But to probe into all these projects is time consuming and a sad use of my team’s intelligence. Instead, I give them targets – put it up on a Google Sheet for the whole team to see- and let them drive. I remain in the backseat, there to help them when required.

People follow people, not organisations. My team works for the company, but they follow my commands. As long I have their trust and respect, they will march through hell for me. So it is imperative that they trust me and respect me.

I put up everything from the number of projects  to the number of leaves that we’ve taken on the same Google Sheet. This way, my team knows that everyone is equal and there is no favouritism. I also discuss random things with my team; we talk about the Ghost Army, the method of Loci, and Game of Thrones. I encourage them to read books like The One Minute Manager and take courses on websites. I have one-on-one discussions with them about what they want to do in life, and try to help them get there.

All this might not have an immediate effect on their performance, but it contributes to their personal growth. This makes a huge difference to how they perceive me as a manager. I am no longer the guy with the whip, but the mentor guiding them to their goal. And people always want to live up to their mentor’s expectations.


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