Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A bad case of binary thinking?

I spend a lot of my time teaching managers and leaders core coaching skills. They bit they most consistently struggle with is being non-directive - asking rather than telling. You can clearly see that this does not compute for many of them. "Isn't leadership about setting direction and providing clarity for others" is the direct or indirect challenge. "Why shouldn't I give them the answers if I know them?".

I think they have a point... up to a point. Leadership is indeed directive; its about providing others with a sense of where they are going, and it is about providing clarity. However leadership is also about bringing out the best in others, and developing autonomous contributors independent of the boss.

So I don't see this as either/or binary argument. Leadership has to be about asking and telling - and often all in the same conversation. Its just that many managers are much more skilled and familiar with the directive end of the spectrum than asking genuinely open questions, listening fully or delivering skilful feedback. Great leaders know when people need certainty and clarity, and when its best for them to figure it out for themselves.

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