240 – Leading as Guides from a Distance

Control and leadership are opposites. If you control something, you don’t need to lead it; if you lead people, then you don’t need to control them.

Micromanaging drains resources, but so does fixing other people’s mistakes. Leadership requires keeping a distance, allowing people to make mistakes, clean them up, figure things out, and celebrate the victory that comes from their own effort. The adage “managers do things right, leaders do right things” holds true.

Know when to intervene: never too often.

Coach from the sidelines, give pointers, but let the players work the game. There’s a time for both harshness and encouragement, but the important ingredient is to keep off the field. Sit and watch the toddler walk; don’t help him, celebrate his steps from at two arms’ reach, and make sure he doesn’t play with the pretty hot burner on the stove.

Guiding a tour can require some planning and preparation, but you can’t prepare for everything. A quick orientation before the tour is designed to make the tour better, it does not replace it. Have a plan, hold a group huddle for vital warnings before entering the jungle, pause along the way so no one gets lost, and make sure you know your stuff so you can answer any question and solve any problem as they come up.

While some planning is necessary, plans are for the leader, not the group. Give people a schedule, make sure it’s readable, but be flexible. If other people know the mission and direction then the tour will lead itself and you will be free to focus on enhancing the journey rather than hoping that it finishes at all. If someone wants to stop and see something special on the way, that’s a good thing.

Welcome initiative and be patient when things aren’t done perfectly. Let people try and try a few times, offer rewards for success, and when necessary, step in and give a talk-through demo. When people are striving to get their on their own initiative, they’ll place high value on what you have to say. You’ll have to say it often, though. So, get used to repeating the same truth like a broken record.