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Influential Leader: The Power of Ownership

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

"A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the nimblest go out ahead, after that the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind." - Nelson Mandel

At this point, you have a team that is happy to work and feels safe and protected doing so. But we still have not homed in on precisely how you motivate them to get down to it.

Give Others Freedom to Work on What They Want

Giving your team ownership over their work answers that little puzzle. That means letting your team decide how they will work, what they will focus on, and even what it might look like. You can even let them create their projects.

This means giving them the freedom to experiment and a sense of ownership. There is a reason that Google supplies its staff with free time to work on their projects… and it’s one of the world's most essential and transformative businesses!

Doing this makes someone innately and inherently invested in the project, and you ensure they love what they are doing.

Do not Force Someone to Do What They Do Not Enjoy.

Here is the stark reality: you cannot force someone to do what they do not enjoy to the best of their ability. If you move someone to work on a project they find dull, then, of course, they will work on that project. But they will not give it their all, and much of the work will be sub-par.

Conversely, if you get someone to work on their passion project and this project has their name on it, they suddenly become far more invested and want to go to work. They will work harder on the project because it has their name and makes them feel alive. This could improve their career, which they can be proud of at the end of the day.

When you micromanage someone and control every small decision that someone makes, they are given zero control or ownership over that thing. This, in turn, means they will not be at all invested or interested in it.

Likewise, if you refuse to listen to their point of view or know they have big problems with how the work is being approached, again, you should not be surprised if they lack motivation and do not do their best work.

Therefore, the job of the leader is to take on much responsibility for what happens to protect their team while at the same time giving the team more creative control. That is why it takes much bravery to be a true leader.

This is another reason it is so important to explain to people why they should do something.

In a Crisis

In a crisis, this same approach applies. That is because you will likely be yelling out roles for people: asking someone to call for help while another person stops the bleeding, for example.

Again, you cannot be everywhere and do everything. Your job is to give instructions to the person trying to do the job and let them make the critical decisions about how to do it.

For Parents

This is another tip that is especially important and useful for parents! Young children always want to feel involved, and they want to feel ownership over what they are doing.

Try and feed your child their vegetables, and they will often refuse. You might take this as a sign that they do not want those vegetables. So, what do you do? Promise them, sweets if they eat their vegetables. (Remember: rewards can harm productivity!) Or do you fight them to try and get them to eat?

The solution often is to let them hold the spoon or choose which vegetables they want. You are still guiding their behavior, but allowing them to learn and feel involved will make them happier to acquiesce.

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