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BOB MUELLER: Lead by empowering others

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By Bob Mueller

It’s probably easier to herd fish in the open ocean than to lead people effectively. This is proven by the mountain of books on successful management techniques and the popularity of leadership seminars.
I don’t agree with modern advisors that people need to be managed or controlled. Do people really need to be managed? Who on earth wants to be managed? How many people want to work like a chicken in a coop that will be turned into a stewing fowl if it fails to lay an egg a day?
Good managers lead by setting an example and knowing the abilities and shortcomings of their workers.
Of course it takes considerable effort and self-confidence to be such a leader, but in the long run it is a style that is more equitable and less stressful than the bullying and fixation on the bottom line that is so rampant nowadays.
I’m not saying businesses shouldn’t make a profit. The issue is what that profit costs in human terms for both the bosses and the workers.
The CEO who screams and threatens that heads will roll at the slightest infraction accomplishes nothing but the rising of everyone’s blood pressure.
The task still hasn’t been done; some walk so carefully and softly that production is slowed down; others begin to harbor resentment and fear the indignity they feel.
Nobody is inspired to put in more effort, except perhaps those engineering the CEO’s downfall.
An ordinary person will do anything to keep the corner office and its implied authority, but a civilized person understands the surest way to stay on top is to encourage workers to reach their highest capabilities. Flogging might make a sailor bleed, but it won’t make him run up the shrouds any faster.
What to do about the bossy bosses who keep their fists closed and run off at the mouth? Show them desirable conduct.
Keep your temper under control, observe, learn from all, don’t preach, just practice, maintain your dignity, and listen before you speak. Your time to lead might come or it might not, but at least the waiting will be rewarding. And don’t forget those on top can end up on the bottom quickly.
A truly fine leader will know when to stop demanding more because he or she understands the capabilities and limitations of employees. It is trite but true – knowledge is power.
And the most powerful knowledge is to understand how to convince people to do your bidding without commands, demands or threats.
In politics, this is labeled “charisma.” A great leader has the ability to get other people to want to share his or her goal and make them think it was their own idea.
One great advantage of empowering others and letting other people shine at whatever they do best is that you can bask in reflected glory. It doesn’t cost much and you can rest assured that everyone is satisfied.

Bob Mueller is senior director of mission & stewardship at Hosparus. The views in this column are those of the writer.