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Why Telling People What To Do Doesn’t Work

Healthy Leaders

Why Telling People What To Do Doesn’t Work

Nick FranksNick Franks
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In his recent article Stop Telling People What To Do, Keith Webb has completely busted the common leadership myth that “your people just need to be told what to do ‒ they just need more info.”

As leaders, if we allow it to be, even the title of this article is challenging for us because it touches on a core mentality that we can all easily stray into ‒ namely, those that we lead require some of the information that we can offer and, with a little or a lot of instruction, they’ll be fine and produce what I want.

“No…” says Webb in this refreshing take on how to lead effectively, “A lack of information is rarely the problem. So, telling people what to do won’t help.”

Instead, here are his top four tips to help people progress without telling them what to do:

Webb concludes his post poignantly by saying,

If people were machines, then we could just tell them what to do, and they’d do it. Machines are limited. People are much more capable, creative and intelligent. When we’re trying to get people to follow our directions, we see their intelligence as a problem. One of my old bosses used to say,I’m not paying you to think. I’m paying you to do what I tell you to do.”

Years ago, a leader I worked under once very seriously and matter-of-factly described me as his “subordinate.” While this was technically true ‒ I was submitted to his senior leadership ‒ at the time it struck me as a word that, as a Kingdom leader, I would never want to use, or a thought I’d never want to have, of those under my leadership. I don’t want to bark commands and play the “submit” card; I want to lead strongly and winsomely but with Christ-likeness as my aspirational default.

In our leadership contexts, and, crucially, within our natural and preferred leadership styles, let us never forget to consider whether our approaches are genuinely reflective of Kingdom values or not.