Here’s why “do as I say” leadership doesn’t work…

“But mom (or dad), why do I have to do my chores?  I hate chores!”

“Because I told you to, that’s why!”

Sound familiar?

Most of us have probably been on one end of this conversation at some point in our life so far, right?  How did it play out?  Let me guess…

Both the parents and kid probably got upset and stormed off.  Maybe the chores got done but but likely half-asked and the vicious cycle repeated again the next time the need for chores arose.

The same thing happens in the professional world between bosses and employees all the time and the relationships, productivity and overall happiness of both parties drastically suffers.  But why?

Simply put, this “do as I say” leadership style is quick, efficient and it serves in purpose in certain situations or relationships with power imbalances (i.e parents and children, boss and employees, coaches and players, the military, etc).  However, what is often overlooked is the long-term negative effects of embracing this leadership style focused on short-term results.

Here are a few reasons why “do as I say leadership” can be detrimental to progress, long-term team success and morale.

First, “do as I say” leadership styles gives off a perception that feedback from followers is non-important and un-welcomed.  Obviously parents have the power to decide what chores need to be done and to delegate accordingly with the expectation that those tasks will be carried out without question. Right? The same goes for supervisors or bosses in the professional setting.  But again, maybe the work gets done when orders are barked and punishment is threatened, but at what cost?

In a “do as I say” leadership framework, the expectation is that instructions are followed with blind loyalty.  The reality of the world we live in today is that people need to feel included and valued to remain motivated.  If you want your followers to take initiative and invest themselves in their work, you must be willing to share your power with them as the leader. Obviously it takes more time to explain why tasks matter (especially chores) but it helps people understand their part in the bigger picture.

Better yet, when people understand their purpose and feel respected and valued, it motivates them to perform at a higher level.  But most “leaders” prefer the “do as I say” way of leading because it’s easier and takes less time and explanation.  Most “leaders” view their power imbalance as an excuse to hoard information and still expect their team to produce results.

A more participative leadership style which provides additional insight and welcomes feedback is an investment in the long-term development of your followers and the success of your team. It builds trust and respect which is ESSENTIAL in successful teams.

Secondly,  “do as I say” leadership eliminates the need for followers to take initiative which is often counter productive to what the leader is hoping to achieve.  Don’t parents want their kids to perform the chores without being asked?  Of course. Doesn’t a supervisor want their employees to take the initiative to improve the quality of their work without being told to?  Absolutely.

But each time you as the leader provide instructions and demand it be carried out without question, you begin depleting the motivation for followers to go above and beyond.  It fosters an environment where followers wait for instructions to act and only then do the bare minimum asked of them.

This happens because your followers understand that they are to do as you tell them and nothing more, limiting creativity, innovation and overall participation.  Your followers will build resentment because they don’t feel included in the teams plan and success, and they feel their only role is a pon in your own personal agenda, instead of feeling like a valued member of the teams long-term objective.  just part of the process.  In addition, they will not take initiative because they have grown accustomed to waiting for your instruction.

So in conclusion, if you are having a hard time getting people to follow your instruction, take initiative or meet your quality expectations, try taking a step back and analyzing what motivates them.  Adjust your leadership style to target their incentives and help them feel included, valued and needed.  Try embracing a different perspective and try to understand how you would feel in their shoes and what you would need to hear to feel motivated.

Collaboration takes time but the long-term effects are profound because people want to participate in something important.  People need to feel important and a more inclusive and participative leadership style may help spark creativity and initiative.

Work towards empowering your followers to believe in your objective and to understand the importance of their role. There will still be tasks they still don’t like performing but if they are motivated for the right reasons and understand the long-term objective and feel valued, they will be more likely to actual participate the way you intended.

By: Timothy A. Natale

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