Saturday, February 26, 2005

How to Lead from the Bottom.

I'm actually of two minds about writing this. On the one hand, this is a very, VERY useful technique. On the other hand, it's quite possibly manipulative as hell. Anyway, here goes. Leave a comment, tell me what you think.

So let's say you're in a group at work or a volunteer group and you're not the leader or the boss or anything like that, but you have some ideas you'd like the group to adopt, or you have a direction you'd like the group to go in. How do you handle that?
First, and most obviously, make a logical case for your idea. Pitch it to the group and provide facts and reasons for WHY your idea should be adopted. While you're in a group kicking the idea around, be open to changes that might make your idea better. Here's the trick: the more people you can get to adopt your idea as their own, the more likely it'll be adopted. So if someone makes adapts the idea, and the change is good, emphasize and re-iterate that. "Yeah, that's a good idea, Jane, we should do that because...." And, if you can get your BOSS to adapt the idea, all the better. This might be a process that takes place over time. Just keep bringing it up and attributing as much of it as you can to other people, especially the leader of the group. If, by the end of the day, you've succeeded in making the entire group think it was their idea, you've won.

You might have noticed that you don't get credit this way. Well, so what? Do you want the idea to be adopted, or do you want credit? Think about it. Making sure that everyone knows it was YOUR idea is only going to get you a reputation as an egotist, isn't it?

But don't stop there! A lot of people throw an idea out, even get credit, and then they don't follow up, and then they get all whiny and say, "I had this great idea and nobody wanted to do it." Next you have to take the wheel and drive. This is where you have to be really careful not to step on anyone else's toes. Think about what needs to happen next. And ASK or OFFER to do those things, don't just do them. For example, "Would you like me to set up the next meeting?" "Shall I draw up the minutes for the group?" Stuff like that. The trick here is to get a clear sense of the steps that need to be done and make the taking of the steps as easy as possible. If someone who is a peer of yours offers to do a task, and your next steps depend on that task, if they don't get back to you after a week, ask them (very informally, as peer-to-peer) about their status. Offer to help them with part of it.

It's really that simple. Make everyone else in the group think it was THEIR idea, and drive that car (in a deferent way, of course) until you've all arrived at the destination.

A leader is best when people barely know that he exists.
Less good when they obey and acclaim him.
Worse when they fear and despise him.
Fail to honor people, and they fail to honor you.
But of a good leader, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
they will say, "We did this ourselves."
-- Lao-Tzu

1 Comments:

Blogger BrightKnight said...

I do not think that this is underhanded at all. This is often encouraged in the business world.

I once worked for a large company that offered its employees a course called something like “Managing your Manager." The top brass thought that empowering all of its employees would be good for the organization. There was an organization-flattening fad going around for a while. Perhaps an MBA out there could expand on this.

12:57 PM  

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