By Guest Contributor Paul Dupuis
When we look back at the origin of leadership itself, traditionally the leader was seen as the one who knows. In other words, when you had a problem or you faced a challenge, you would go to your leader for the answer. In the business world, many organizations still function in this manner. These tend to be the more hierarchical structures where leadership roles are assigned based on age and tenure (sometimes even by birth), rather than on merit. And more often than not, these organizations have a culture driven by a very talented promoter or founder. But this notion of the leader who knows is quickly being replaced by the leader who “wants to know”.
- Be an enabler, don’t be a disabler
- It’s not about knowing, exceptional leaders start each day wanting to know
Unlike the days when I was coming up as a young leader, access to information, knowledge and in many cases, answers to the “how to?” questions can be accessed almost instantly. The traditional definition of leadership has changed, and that means leaders much change as well. This poses both a challenge and a significant opportunity for leaders today. Within the framework of The E5 Movement, it’s an opportunity to move from leader as doer, to leader as Enabler.
So what does Enable really mean?
If we revisit the definition mentioned above, to Enable is clearly an action on the part of the leader which creates momentum to move the needle. In other words, it’s not automatic and certainly requires effort. Take it one step further and the visionary leader, who then focuses on enabling his/her team, becomes a leader who instils a strong sense of belief that anything is possible. Just imagine the possibilities of leading a team of people who believe!
A word of caution; there is a fine line between enabling and disabling. Leaders by nature are doers. In fact, most studies of the leaders who have made an impact across arenas, in the world of business, sports, politics and beyond – tend to share one common trait, they’re pace-setters. Another way to say it is that the leaders who move the needle are “doers”. Marshall Goldsmith in his best-selling book, ‘What Got you Here Won’t Get You There’ sums it up eloquently when he advises leaders that being a strong player doesn’t necessarily equate to being a strong nor effective leader.
In fact, the leader who rose up through the ranks as a strong player can sometimes become frustrated by a lack of traction on progress and often defaults to a response, “I can do it better”, and then instinctively grabs the wheel. The best way to discourage and demotivate someone is to prevent them from trying, especially when they’ve already started!
- Enable means to helping others to shine
- Effective leadership is less about doing, and more about enabling others to do
- Exceptional leaders resists the urge to grab the wheel, they give freedom in the frame
If we rewind back to the definition of leadership quoted above, take a closer look and the answer becomes clear. The key word “to make someone able” or to “make something possible” does not include “just do it yourself”. The game-changing leaders who I’ve observed and worked with over the years share a common trait, they all have an uncanny ability to surround themselves with very talented people, with good values. And they spend most of their time and energy on helping them shine.
“How I spend my time”
As we discover this important piece of the puzzle of exceptional leadership, here’s a simple exercise you can do as a leader yourself. Take out a pen and draw a large circle on a piece of paper. This will be titled, “How I spend my time”. First, outline the largest piece of the pie. The thing you spend the most of your time on. For example, is it doing reviews with your teams? Or strategic planning? Internal PR/communications? Or is it P&L management and financial analysis? Interviewing potential candidates for your organization? Or perhaps you spend the majority of your time networking and speaking at conferences? Whatever it is, draw up your pie into pieces by the percentage of time you spend on each activity, a rough estimate is fine.
Once your pie is complete, I imagine you’ll have 4-6 pieces which make up more than 90% of how you spend your time. Now look at the pie and ask yourself this important question; “How much of my time is spent purely on enabling my teams or my leaders, to be successful?”. Chances are that this will represent a much smaller piece of your pie that you thought.
The good news is that you’re not alone, in fact most leaders spend a majority of their time in reviews, strategic planning and reporting, rather than on the most critical action to bring a vision to reality – to enable. Even worse, many leaders fall in the trap of being ‘hands on’ to the point where they allow their teams very little freedom to move, micro-managing the process, and extinguishing the curiosity and motivational fire which is critical for success. In effect, these leaders are disablers.
- Ask yourself, “what does my daily pie look like? Am I doing the right stuff to bring the vision to life?”
- Effective leaders spend the majority of their time on actions to move forward in bringing the vision to life
- Exceptional leaders surround themselves with great people, and then get out of their way
- Avoid the tendency to micromanage, instead spend your time on enabling
As we move quickly into a new world, a world where we engage thru technology, where we communicate and collaborate across virtual borders, this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us as leaders to take another look at how we spend our time. It’s also a chance to reimagine and perhaps even re-invent the way we lead, shifting from disabler, to enabler. Get that piece of the pie right, and the possibilities are endless.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Dupuis is CEO and Managing Director of Randstad India and the former Chairman of HOPE International (JP). Paul is bilingual, speaking both English and Japanese, and has lived and worked across Asia for more than 25 years.
Learn more about The E5 Movement
From a young backpacker, sleeping on a park bench in Japan, to leading one of the biggest corporate giants in the Asia-Pacific region, Paul Dupuis has built a career through game changing leadership – crafted through his own real-life experiences as an athlete, volunteer and CEO. The E5 is a unique leadership model; a call to action to all leaders, globally, to inspire and lead for change. The five Es are: envision; express; excite; enable; execute.
These five rules of game-changing leadership will revolutionize the way leaders approach each new challenge. The real-life anecdotes combined with the conversational tone of the book make this an accessible and impactful read. Thought provoking and practical, this book will inspire leaders to think about their leadership, adopting the five Es on their mission to lead their teams to excellence – a true game-changer. Pick your five and join the movement!
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