Empowering Leaders: Hand Over Your Keys

Empowering Leaders: Hand Over Your Keys

PG[1] No one likes a backseat driver. You know, the one who hands you the keys and then proceeds to nag you at every turn, correcting and directing you throughout the trip?

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.

About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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What People Are Saying

  • Well said friend! I’ll be posting my review of Tony’s seminar next week sometime. I know that I have a hard time letting someone else drive a lot of the time. Letting other leaders in my church drive is my main focus this year! I’m really excited about it!

  • Great post Becky. My most challenging and fulfilling adventures have always happened when someone handed over the keys!
    P.S. the men at the conference *really* loved that car analogy…

  • I use a similar progression in my books and Working Supervisor’s Support Kit. Here’s my version.
    Tell – I tell you want to do and observe closely.
    Discuss and Tell – We discuss so I know how you’re learning, but I still decide the key issues and monitor performance.
    Discuss and Allow – We discuss, but you’ve developed to where I can let you make some decisions about what to do, even if they might be different than mine.
    Allow – You’ve demonstrated both ability and willingness. I assign the work, ask for questions, then turn you loose.

  • Graham – I’ll look forward to your post. Thanks for coming by. I plan to write more about the conference, too!
    Laura – I agree. I’ll never forget the first time I went out after I got my license. Metaphorically speaking, too, I enjoy those adventures when I am given the opportunity to drive. 🙂
    Wally – thanks so much for sharing your version of the steps to giving people more independence on the job.

  • Becky,
    This is a model for leadership, managing, discipleship, and parenting.
    Now, if we can get more people behaving in this pattern (which involves the ability to diagnose where the other person is on willingness and ability), “all of the above” will be a lot more effective.

  • Nice list of topics and quick thoughts,I really agree of letting go to everyone leaders drive their owned ways and idealism Because I really believe that an ounce of loyalty is a worth of found of cleverness.Interesting Blogs!!!

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