Lao Tzu once said that “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
I firmly believe that effective leaders shouldn’t focus on themselves, or how well they can tell their team members what to do. I believe it’s best to find ways to help your team to think more critically and constructively. As leaders, we need to help our team members to think in such a way that we are almost invisible.
Most of the time we are trying to help our teams solve problems. The best way to do this is to change the way they think. I’ve touched on this before when I discussed performance and implementing cultural change in the workplace. In fact, one could say that changing the way people think is one of the greatest challenges to improving performance and getting people to solve problems. In order to do this, we have to inspire a higher-quality of thinking in our teams.
Higher-quality thinking improves the overall thinking of others around you as well as your team. It literally improves the way your team’s brains process information, and if you can do this, you don’t have to tell them what to do, they will know. Just look at how many organizations pay employees to think and analyze data and situations. Don’t tell your team members how to solve a task, ask them how they think they should solve it. Force them to think critically and possibly develop multiple solutions to a problem, then stand back and watch them solve it. Improving the way your team thinks can be one of the best and quickest ways in which they can improve their performance and benefit the organization as a whole.
Introverted vs. Extroverted Leadership
The more traditional approach to leadership has been to be bold and assertive, to be a dominant figure who provides commanding direction. However, in my experience, I’ve seen that this approach can stifle employees who are outspoken, independent, and who would otherwise take initiative. On the other hand, I’ve seen that quiet, more introverted leaders tend to be more successful with today’s workers by allowing them to step up and grow within an organization.
Psychology today states that as much as half of the population are introverts, in spite of the the popular view that charismatic extroverts are the ones who prevail in business. I think that this has a lot to do with misconceptions such as introverts are shy, anxious, and afraid of taking charge. However, Jennifer B. Kahnweiler Pd.D., author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, states that introverts are merely more reserved and process information internally. They focus on deeper meanings and connections, and only share personal information with a select few people.
Bringing it All Together
Organizations are becoming increasingly filled with intelligent employees from a wide-range of backgrounds. Employees who bring a unique set of skills and knowledge to the teams on which they work. Add to this the fact that organizations continue to adopt a self-managing approach to their team structures, which in turn, encourages more independent workers.
Many employees today don’t accept passive roles in their organizations. They want to take action and be a part of the overall vision. They do not want to be repressed by a command and control system that forces them into a hive mentality. They work better with quiet, introverted leaders who know how to encourage high-quality, critical thinking skills; leaders that step out of their employees way and allow them to shine.