Reach for the Sky: How to Help Others Rise to the Challenge

Many of those in leadership positions falsely believe it is their job to tell everyone what to do. After all, that’s what a leader does, right?

The truth is that effective leaders know when to step aside and let others take the helm. That’s not the same as leaving the ship rudderless—every organization needs direction—but rather, it’s about trusting your employees to make good decisions in the face of adversity.

In her book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman explains that diminishers, or leaders that limit the collective intelligence of their organizations, “place an artificial limit on what their organizations can accomplish…Multipliers have a fundamentally different approach. Instead of knowing the answer, they play the role of Challenger. They use their smarts to find the right opportunities for their organizations and challenge and stretch their organizations to get there.”

In the mind of what Wiseman calls “Challengers,” challenges aren’t cause for anxiety or discouragement. Rather, Challengers know that obstacles bring out the best in people. They are opportunities to learn and overcome. Failing to offer challenges leads to stagnation and dependency, neither of which fosters a healthy organizational culture.

Wiseman identifies three practices that Challengers tend to engage in, setting them apart from “know-it-all” leaders that rely on micromanagement and other toxic behaviors in order to carry out tasks. They are:

  • Seeding the opportunity

Challengers live by the saying “show, don’t tell.” Rather than telling others how to solve a problem, they ask questions, challenge assumptions, and reframe problems. They might point their employees in the right direction, but they won’t explicitly tell them how to get there.

  • Articulating the challenge

Once enough excitement and interest in a challenge is generated, Challengers offer assistance by designating the parameters of the challenge or by setting the stakes for the organization. In other words, they help to create a narrative that serves to explain what the challenge is, why it’s important, and how much of a stretch it will be for the organization to follow through on it.

  • Generating Belief

No one wants to follow a leader that isn’t fully invested in their cause. Here Wiseman suggests a strategy called “helicoptering down.” This is where those in leadership positions get involved at the ground level. This demonstrates that the leader appreciates everyone’s contributions and cares about all levels of the organization, not just the top.

Interested in discussing how you can help others rise to the challenge? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me via my website, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *