Tony Morgan says if you are going to let someone drive, you also need to let them decide how to get there.
The driver is the one who sets the pace, determines the route, chooses the music, adjusts the air conditioning. Ultimately, and most importantly, the driver is responsible for getting everyone to the correct destination: safe, on time, comfortable.
If you are a leader seeking to empower others in your organization, this analogy is an important one to remember. Though relinquishing the keys means letting go of your control, it is also the only way to help people grow to a place of competence. If you give people the opportunity to lead, you help them discover their talents and develop new skills.
People in your organization are longing to do something significant. Why not let them drive?
There are many reasons why we don’t let others drive. We like driving. We’re good at it. We’re most comfortable behind the wheel. It’s risky to let someone else drive. They may crash, or get lost. They may drive slower than we want to go; they may drive too fast; they may take a different route.
But maintaining control by insisting to drive ourselves introduces another risk: we may never actually go anywhere at all. When we refuse to develop other leaders, we limit the growth of our organizations. We stifle creativity by eliminating the opportunity to see and do things in a new way.
Just as a teenager needs to be behind the wheel for months before they are ready to drive solo, it’s okay to help prepare people for leadership before you hand over the keys.
Graham Brenna offered this paradigm — gleaned from another trainer — for getting people ready for leadership.
First: I do, you watch, we talk.
Then: I do, you help, we talk.
Next: You do, I help, we talk.
Finally: You do, I watch, we talk.
One thing I like about this progression is that it recognizes increasing ability on the part of the emerging leader. The idea of an ongoing conversation is great, too. As we are preparing people to lead, we are also deepening our relationship with them. We are giving them more freedom. Then we are handing over the keys.
The thing is, a new leader probably won’t drive as well as we would, at first. But that’s okay. It really is.
This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.