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Inspire & Inquire Instead of Command & Control

Leadership success is tied to one essential skill – being able to effectively work through others. A type of synergy can be created when people work to their combined strengths to produce more than the sum of their individual output. But it takes great courage and confidence to put your destiny in the hands of others…

The Command and Control mindset is tied to our most primal ego.  It doesn’t provide us with genuine respect or admiration, just compliance.   The Command and Control style of leadership is based in fear and a lack of trust.  The lack of faith and trust in others and the fear of what can go wrong and, more importantly, the negative impact some else’s mistake will have on us.  The Command and Control mindset results in the kind of behavior that gives us heart attacks and strokes, not high performing teams.

How can we break free from the Command and Control mindset and propel our organization to unprecedented success?

  • Start by resisting the urge to dictate solutions to problems, since it only makes our people more dependent on us.  Instead, ask questions to confirm, for your sake and theirs, that they know how to handle the most likely problems, this gives us peace of mind and gives them confidence.

Teach them to think for themselves and not rely on you for answers.  When an issue arises, ask them how they would handle the situation if you weren’t around.  Listen intently to their response.  If they fail to address a likely outcome, ask how they would react to that potential result.  Continue to ask questions until they have satisfactorily worked through the scenario(s).  Be sure that your tone and line of questioning builds confidence rather than doubt.

For example, the military, known for the use of the command and control approach, has found that it doesn’t produce the desired results. The best military leaders are shifting to an inspire and inquire approach.  In his book It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, Michael Abrashoff shares many success stories that allowed him to realize unheard of achievements in the Navy by using an inspire and inquire approach in running his ship.  In just two years, he took one of the worst performing crews to the top spot, challenging the military status quo mindset time and time again.

  • Encourage your people to show initiative and train them to ensure the actions that they take are the right ones.  Take advantage of informal, in-the-moment on-the-job learning opportunities.  In just a few minutes, you can build more skills and confidence than any formal training class.
  • Paint a picture of what the team can accomplish by working together, the exponential multiplier of their combined and well-timed effort.  Help them see what is possible.  Build a sense of purpose that will motivate them 24/7 whether you’re there or not.
  • Resist the urge to criticize and blame when things don’t go as planned.  Conduct an after-the-fact review where the underlying issues are revealed and everyone understands what went wrong and why, and learns what to do differently in the future.  Continue to encourage and train your people to bolster their confidence in themselves and your confidence and trust in their abilities.
  • Spur your people to continuously stretch and grow.  Ask how you can support their efforts.  Help them see their true potential.
  • How can we improve?  On a daily basis, ask your people, what can we do today to improve on what we did yesterday?
  • What can we do today to better prepare us for the foreseeable future?  Ask, what do we know today, about what the future holds, how it will impact us, and how can we best position ourselves to respond?

Over time your fears will subside as your people accomplish more and greater things than you ever thought possible.  You will realize that you don’t have to have all the answers.  You just need to ask the right questions.  As you learn to trust your people, they, in return, will learn to trust you.  It takes repeated positive interactions and outcomes for both sides to achieve a high degree of trust, so be patient.  Through the process you will learn to inspire and inquire as a natural progression, getting better with each small success and slowly letting go of command and control, because you won’t need it anymore…

The pinnacle of leadership is when the people that you coached and developed, become inspiring leaders themselves, that’s how you realize exponential returns for your time and effort.  It’s the constant reinforcement of leading by example day in and day out that really makes the difference.  There is no training workshop in the world that is more powerful than the lessons learned from daily observations of a true leader in action.  The positive results cascade throughout the organization building critical mass along the way…

When we inspire people to accomplish more than they ever dreamed possible, we become the leaders that people will not only follow but strive to astonish…

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