Be a Leader, Not a Pleader.

Originally posted on LinkedIn – September 20, 2015

To inspire people to achieve great things, you need to set the vision. Cast a strategy and paint a picture for your team so they understand what you believe the future holds.  Got that? Great.


What if they don’t believe you? What if they don’t agree with you? What if they don’t see what you see? What if they just outright don’t care?

Or, more likely, what if they do exactly what you hired them to do and ask questions? Point out pitfalls? Get very real about what it will take to get there?

This is where you run a very real risk of abandoning leadership and plunging into pleadership. And if this happens, this is not you team’s fault. Nope, this one is on you.

The Pleader: “Please please please see what I see. I promise it’s going to be the best. You just have to trust me. Please? Can you just do that for me? I mean, we can adjust a little but this is what we are doing. Please work with me here. Yeah, I mean, I know it’s hard but it’s going to work.”

Typically, this ends up with either a “Well, we are doing it anyway” or “If you think it won’t work, I guess we won’t try it.” Neither are great options for anyone.

I’ve been there. I get a dream stuck in my head and I lay it out in all its glory and then my incredibly intelligent team asks how we get there. They point out the dangers and difficulties. I’m a dreamer, I know that about myself. When it comes to process, to making it work, I need help.

I’ve been the pleader. In the moment, it’s hard to climb out of that mindset. But if you recognize you’ve abandoned your typically logical self, try these tips.

Set your vision. Poke holes. Set your vision again. The first and best thing you can do when building something new is to start with a solid foundation. As you are designing anything new, (a new process, a new website, a new invention, a new service, a new cheeseburger, anything really) set your vision in your mind and write it down. In a perfect world, what does it look like to you? Who is benefiting, how have you made the team, the company and the world just a little bit better?

Now what sucks about it? Be brutal. How can we make this work? What if it doesn’t work? What if it makes things worse? How will we recover? Write that all down.

Rewrite the vision and get very clear on your whys. Now deliver it to your team.

Deliver and let them process. Take your new vision and deliver it. Explain what you see and why you think it’s the right thing to do. Then, shut up. You just dropped a bomb on your team and now you want to know what they think? Whoah. Take a breath. You’ve been thinking on this business stuff for weeks, maybe months. Let your people have some time to process. I like to say “I know this is something new to take in and I’m sure you have a lot of thoughts. Think about this new direction and tomorrow we will meet as a team to talk more. Again, at the end of this my desire is (Restate Vision)”.

Ask for input and mean it. For the love of God, just because you thought up this dream doesn’t mean it is utter perfection. If all of your thoughts were free of all error or obstacle, you wouldn’t need anyone. But you do need people. Leverage those that you trust. What do they think of this new direction? Ask how can we make it a reality? Should we make it a reality? How can we improve on the vision? Here is where you need to hold to that leadership, being really open and vulnerable to constructive criticism. Don’t be defensive, don’t jump to justify. Really listen and understand concerns and questions. Understand what area you are comfortable evolving and where you must stand firm. Acknowledge all feelings and ideas. Thank everyone for their honesty =. If you react poorly it will diminish team effectiveness and morale.

Let yourself process and evolve. After you’ve heard the concerns, the questions, the ideas, re-examine your future state and modify it. Take all that knowledge you gathered from your team and put together your improved, collaborative vision for the future. Acknowledge the difficulty, address the concerns. At the end of this exercise, you may find yourself surprised at how much better and brighter the future looks.

Lead through it. It’s time to go back to your team and let them know you really listened. You’ve considered all feedback and evolved in your thinking. Now is the time for action; to rally your team and move forward.

A Manager might say, “We are doing this because we have to, it is what it is.”

A Manager might say, “Do this because I said to and I’m the boss.”

A Pleader might say, “Please do this, I promise it will work.”

A Pleader might say, “If we don’t do this my boss is not going to be happy.”

A Leader would say, “Thank you for the very real and open conversation about our future. I have given it significant thought and adjusted our future vision. I believe now it reflects our team goal and the goal for our company.”

A Leader would say, “Now that we have a more complete understanding of our future state, I need all team members to move through the change together to make this a reality. There will be challenges which we will face together, however now is the time to move from the “why “and into the “how”. Together, we will make this a reality.”

Change is hard, but change is necessary in business and in life. Be open, collaborative, respectful and both you and those around you will reach new heights.

Feedback is love so please comment, critique, like and share.


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