Project Practitioners > Practicing Followship - Not For Wussies!

Practicing Followship - Not For Wussies!

By Ed Reynolds

Recognizing great leadership qualities and putting them into practice are two different things. Incredibly different. "Little Hitler" is a really tough guy to get rid of...

You can always spend more time being a better manager. You can "manage by walking around," read management books, etc. I learn by doing, so I search for good experiential learning seminars. I found the best learning experience ever - a class called Problem Solving Leadership, facilitated by a team of consultants led by Jerry Weinberg. During the opening reception, I told David, one of the facilitators, I was there to learn how to “let go” more, enable and empower my team to develop solutions. The class was designed to teach better team collaboration, producing better results, but for me it was about learning to delegate better.

After a couple days of facilitated problem solving and debriefing, my breakout group was brainstorming ideas for a puzzle we would give another team to solve. We had 2 hours to develop the idea and plan the implementation. An hour into the session, we had talked about lots of things we could do but hadn’t decided anything. “Little Hitler” needed closure. I pointed out that we were out of time and didn’t have a plan yet. I began supporting any proposal in the hope of driving a consensus.

My agitation was palpable. David stood up, leaned across the table into my face, and roared at me, “Do you remember why you said you are here? When are you going to start acting like it?” I was stunned. My company paid thousands of dollars to have this yocal yell at me? I wanted to rip his head off but he also struck a chord. My ego bruised and confused, I stormed out of the room. Four hours later, I found my group in the ballroom building a maze out of tables, chairs and table skirts. The other team would have to negotiate it blindfolded. It was an excellent idea and they did it without me.

I resolved to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the seminar, unless I was asked for my input. I volunteered for nothing, letting myself be assigned wherever I was needed. I learned more about my leadership style in two days of following others than I had in 10 years of managing people.

Re-entry was hard. My team was at once thrilled and bewildered by their newfound empowerment and my refusal to solve all their problems. They couldn’t see me poking myself with sharp instruments under the table when I wanted to scream out "obvious conclusions." Their solutions were different than mine. Frequently, they were better.  “Little Hitler” had left the building. Finally.

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