When I was handling a key change program, and was expressing my frustrations, I was told – “Look at Mother Teresa! Nelson Mandela! Look at how they changed things from a powerless position”. Discussions with colleagues throughout my career have them citing several instances of such gratuitous advice from senior leadership in their organizations.

I discuss the three most common ones:

“Lead the change from a power-less position”

If you are citing examples of Nelson Mandela, or Mother Teresa and expect employees to emulate them – remember that you have not hired Nobel Prize winners. Inspirational value notwithstanding, the sheer volume of work and length of time that any change agent of world renown had put in cannot be compared to the changes you need to make within a year or two.

When you, as a leader, make that statement, you reveal more about your own inadequacies and lack of answers; and worse, you can be perceived as a cynic who does not mind someone else spending all his energy and putting his reputation on the line, as long as failure can be placed at his door and not yours.

“Be more entrepreneurial”

I cannot think of a more ironical statement – the person is in your employ because she is not an entrepreneur – if she was, she would be running her own company! Again, this shows a lack of leadership – and that too in a bad light. The best answer when you don’t have an answer is – “Heck, I don’t know! Let’s try and figure this out, and ask for help from others who could know better”.

“Think outside the box, be innovative!”

The reason an employee has come to you is because he does not know how to proceed, or is undecided after exploring options. If he has done his homework and there is a genuine need for some direction from you – copping out with this statement is the worst thing that could have happened. He loses faith in your ability to lead, and in your lack of courage in acknowledging your own failure to have a ready answer.

When your employees look to you as leaders, they are not expecting immediate answers or decisions, but well considered responses that provide them with a direction. Tough situations don’t have easy answers – they know that. The question is, as a leader, do you?

Note : This article was originally published on LinkedIn

Ramesh Dorairaj

Ramesh Dorairaj is consultant, coach and an author. He has 27+ Years of Experience consulting for Fortune 500 companies worldwide. He has groomed 50+ leaders. Has participated in 2.5 Billion $ worth of successful deals.  He is a Certified Executive Coach at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching, Certified Sales Coach and a Certified Proposal Coach.


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