Leadership That Doesn't Mess Around With Training Wheels
Most parents teach their kids to ride a two-wheeler by putting on training wheels. This seems like a reasonable move. Two tiny back wheels that make a two-wheeler feel like a four-wheeler.
The problem is, training wheels encourage certain bike-riding habits and build certain bike-riding muscles that are not conducive to riding a bike.
When the training wheels come off, kids have to re-learn the balance and trajectory necessary for successful bike riding.
Training wheels, while effective for the prevention of falls, are not effective for teaching balance.
The best way to teach a kid how to ride a bike is not training wheels. The best way to teach a kid to ride a bike is to lower the seat and remove the pedals. Let her push herself around with her feet, eventually learning to push off and coast. Once she gets that motion down, put the pedals back. She will easily transition to full-on bicycling.
Training wheels create dependency. When they're taken off trust and balance must be relearned.
Leadership often creates dependencies, as well. Especially when our leadership style is from the front. The leader becomes the training wheels. Everything hinges on the leader's innovation, the leader's initiative, the leader's drive and passion. Everyone else watches and (maybe) cheers from the sidelines, without the capacity to move on their own. When there is a "training wheels" mentality, leaders assume everyone else is powerless or needs help. They can't possibly do it themselves.
This creates a culture of dependency and uninspired work.
Take off the training wheels - and the pedals. Let people learn to coast on their own. When you empower people to act and give agency, people begin to step into their own calling. That's how people thrive.
When I create an environment of dependency, I’m not helping anyone except my own ego.
Empowerment is leadership.
Rather than figuring out how keep power, control, and agency, why not figure out the best ways to give it away?
Take off the training wheels (and the pedals) and let them ride.