Check out any instruction manual on starting a fire without a match and you will inevitably come across this key action item “when the spark ignites the tender, gently blow on it to create a flame.”
By blowing on the flames of greatness that reside in the people around them, good leaders produce great outcomes.
In my previous blog, I talked about Kyle, one of the best bosses I ever worked for; “he didn’t need to give Obama-esque speeches to get us to follow him anywhere; it was the nature of his character.”
And the nature of his character meant investing in his leaders. He gave us more educational opportunities to increase our knowledge; he assigned us different duties to equip us for even greater responsibilities, and he empowered us to take on tough challenges so that we would become even more self-sufficient.
Every year Kyle (not his real name) gave us an opportunity to increase our knowledge by supporting our enrollment in executive education and other programs. The nearly weeklong session I spent learning about process management literally changed the way I managed.
He also implemented a job rotation program for his direct reports and their direct reports. Each of us spent a year leading one of our peers’ organizations. By assigning us different duties, Kyle broadened our perspectives and equipped us for greater responsibilities.
I was a former lawyer and career staff support guy. My job rotation gave me my first operational experience and it prepared me to successfully lead an operations organization a couple of years later.
Kyle also empowered us. As I mentioned in my last blog, his direct reports met without him to tackle division-wide work issues but he also refused to step in when we encountered problems gelling as a team. It was particularly painful for me as the team’s facilitator but we were better as a team because we worked out our team dynamics on our own.
As a result, I think we had one of the best leadership teams in the company. And we produced results. We made significant improvements in our division’s operational cost per customer and customer satisfaction rankings in a national survey.
By helping us to be better, Kyle produced better outcomes for the organization.
Have you ever had a leader who fanned the flames of your greatness? What was the impact on how you approached your work? I’d love to hear from you. Please send me a note via the contact form. As a thank you, I will send you an excerpt from my book, Transforming: The Power of Leading from Identity.