Leading From Without

Recently, I was working with one of the Senior Executives of a $7 billion dollar client organization.

He opened up to me and explained that after exceeding all targets set for them the previous year, their global office had given them even more aggressive targets for the current year.

His team didn’t see how they could hit these targets and they asked him to explain how they could. He explained to me that he didn’t have the answer, didn’t see the solution and didn’t know what to do.

I was already armed with the information that he was very happy with the team he had and felt that he worked with smart and talented people.

Leaning on my emotional intelligence training, I asked him how he felt about being vulnerable enough to simply tell his team that while he was committed to hitting the targets, he didn’t have the answer either and wanted to hear their ideas about how working together, they could do it.

In short, that is exactly what he did, and his team immediately switched from worrying about the problem to working on a solution. Our client led with transparency, not arrogance. He led with honesty and a request for help, rather than trying to “lead from the front” and have all the answers.

We feel that relationships are built and strengthened in moments when we admit to our team that we don’t see the way – while still demonstrating a commitment to finding a solution. Sometimes, you can be a leader by leading from without (having all the answers). In fact, vulnerability is the primary conduit to trust. When we admit we are lacking an answer or solution, counter-intuitive as it may sound, people trust us more, not less.

We encourage you to give this “leading from without” a try. This can work regardless of your position or title. If you’re dealing with a boss who expects you to have all the answers, try saying something like “I feel confident that you see how to do this, and right now, I don’t. Would you help me think it through?”

We say more about leading from anywhere on the org chart in our book “Step Up, Lead in Six Moments that Matter”. As always, we appreciate your attention, and for additional ideas, follow me on twitter: @HenryJEvans

As always, we welcome your comments. Join us on Facebook to share your experiences, or email us at [email protected].

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