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Thread: Can you Teach Leadership

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    Default Can you Teach Leadership

    I'm a take charge kind of person. If a group of us were sitting around saying we ought to do something, I'd be the one who had already figured out five ways to do it and what everyone's responsibilities would be. I'm not shy about stepping up (sometimes even when I should be) and I've been in a leadership position a number of times.

    I think the fact that I'm comfortable leading is giving me problems with one of my employees. This employee does reasonably well at her job, but she's a total follower. If she has to choose between blue and green she'll wait for me to make the decision. It's driving me nuts.

    I've tried to foster a supportive environment and I've worked enough with her on correcting mistakes she's made so she knows that mistakes have consequences, but it's not an "off with her head" situation. I've also tried to give her chances to make decisions, but nothing seems to work.

    Any ideas on how to foster leadership, especially when someone doesn't seem inclined to lead? Can this even be done?

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    I think some qualities of leadership can be taught and learned, though a certain amount of of seems to be either in-born or maybe ingrained in the person. There are also so many different leadership styles, some that work better for the leaders and also the followers.

    I don't know that you're going to turn someone from a follower into a leader, by offering them a class or similar. However I do think you can improve people's leadership skills in a classroom or other teaching environment. The person still has to want to be a leader and needs to develop certain personal skills to allow them to act on what they know will make them a better leader.

    If I'm not mistaken I know a little more about the specific employee you mention here. Knowing what I do I doubt that teaching her is going to help. From the way you've described her elsewhere she doesn't strike me as wanting to take charge in any way in the current environment. It might be her personality keeps her from taking charge or she's afraid to take on the responsibility. My guess it's less the leadership skills she needs and more the personal ones that would enable her to act on the knowledge of how to be more of a leader.
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    Are we really talking about Leadership skills? Or, are you really just trying to see if she will ever become decisive in basic decisions?

    If you truly want this person to lead other people, then it sounds like she was a bad hire and you're wasting your time.
    Steve B

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve B View Post
    Are we really talking about Leadership skills? Or, are you really just trying to see if she will ever become decisive in basic decisions? ...
    Steve is right. I don't see in the original post any indication that this is a leadership matter.

    To answer the specific question, Yes, leadership can be taught. In the case presented, though, who would this employee lead by way of choosing blue or green? Or, print ad vs magazine ad? Or any other choice? Leadership is about leading people and getting them to do something they would otherwise not do.

    So, the leadership question is about your leadership acumen, Kristine, in getting your employee to stup up and be more decisive. Sounds to me like you want your employee to have more confidence in herself and that is another thing entirely for her to be taught.

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    I think you're right Frederick. Maybe I was approaching the subject the wrong way. I'm characterizing it as leadership, when really it is more confidence. I want her to be comfortable making simple decisions, and right now that doesn't happen. Although it would be nice if she would take the lead on projects on occasion, I could live without that. I just want her to feel more confident in herself and make more suggestions.

    I try to foster a supportive environment, and it may be that this particular person's personality is just more reticent and timid, but I'd love to at least get her feeling a little more confident.

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    Kristine,
    One quick question - Is it OK for her to make a decision that you do not agree with?
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    Good question Neal.

    Kristine what if you when she asks you to make a minor decision you don't make it. You force her to make the choice instead. If she gets used to making some easy decisions maybe she'll get in the habit and be able to make tougher decisions later.
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    It is o.k. if she makes a decision I don't agree with, Neal, if she can make a good case for her decision, I'll go with it. I try to foster a supportive environment and don't think I'm draconian about decisions or how things are done.

    Vangogh, I have tried the minor decision thing, but it seems to cause her a lot of stress. I can't figure out if it's because she's afraid a wrong decision will get her fired, or if she simply doesn't want the responsibility.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KristineS View Post
    ...I've tried to foster a supportive environment and I've worked enough with her on correcting mistakes she's made so she knows that mistakes have consequences, but it's not an "off with her head" situation. I've also tried to give her chances to make decisions, but nothing seems to work.
    ..Any ideas ...?
    Perhaps some of this is due to the manner in which you worked with her on correcting mistakes, Kristine. You saw it as supportively - you said so - but did it come across to her as supportive? The mark of a good leader (you) is in leading in a manner that others will follow, and that manner will be different for each follower.

    Certainly mistakes have consequences, and I'll assume that your employee understands that now. In getting that point across, is it possible that she now feels that every decision is a right or wrong choice and that a wrong choice will invoke another of Kristine's supportive training sessions?

    I would suggest that most decisions in business are not of a right or wrong nature. Sometimes - most times - it really doesn't matter whether the green is chosen or the blue. Many times, while there may be consequences, the consequences are unforseen and the choice is still arbitrary. These are the decisions you can insist she makes. Just tell her to choose whichever she thinks is best and walk away.

    Be sure, later, to praise her for her choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KristineS View Post
    It is o.k. if she makes a decision I don't agree with, Neal, if she can make a good case for her decision, I'll go with it. I try to foster a supportive environment and don't think I'm draconian about decisions or how things are done....
    Do you ever change a decision of hers that you don't agree with? You might SAY it's okay for her to have a different opinion but ONLY (it seems you are saying) if she can make a good case for it. If you say it's okay and then change her decision, you have ACTED to say it's not okay. Confusion can be even more limiting that lack of confidence.

    Quote Originally Posted by KristineS View Post
    ... I have tried the minor decision thing, but it seems to cause her a lot of stress. I can't figure out if it's because she's afraid a wrong decision will get her fired, or if she simply doesn't want the responsibility.
    Have you asked her?

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