Leadership is the art of influencing others in the accomplishment of a task or mission.

Many people automatically default to using rewards and punishments and various other forms of transactional leadership to influence followers and subordinates. The problem with this though is that people habituate quickly to rewards and punishments (assuming the latter aren’t extremely abusive). It’s like jumping into a swimming pool. There can be an initial shock of cold or pleasurable cooling sensation, but you get used to it fairly quickly. Once people are habituated to transactional leadership tactics, they tend to fade into the background and lose their effectiveness.

Another problem with transactional approaches to leadership is that they can initiate an unintended train of cause and effect. If you promise bonuses to your sales people so they focus on clearing out inventory of a particular product, you shouldn’t be surprised if they focus almost exclusively on that to the detriment of other products and services.

Leading from the inside out involves finding what motivates people internally, and working to either modify or leverage those intrinsic motivations. Here are some key approaches for “leading from the inside out.”

  • Lead by example.
  • Say what you do, and do what you say.
  • Give people the end state, overarching vision, and goals, and let them find the best way to achieve these (assuming legality and reasonable standardization of processes and procedures). In other words, specify what to achieve, not how to achieve it.
  • Involve people in setting goals and the overall vision, if relevant.
  • Let people define their own contributions and mission statement.
  • Provide resources and inputs subject to the requests and needs of subordinates.
  • Give them as much situational information as feasible within the constraints of business secrecy and personal confidentiality.
  • Find what makes each of your direct subordinates or followers tick, what their strengths personal goals are, what their personal preferences are, then try to assign them tasks and responsibilities that will leverage these and stretch their capabilities.
  • Give people general functional responsibilities and let them figure out the details.
  • Ask for their advice on important matters, not just trivial ones (sales planning vs the color scheme in the break room).

I’m never too busy to discuss your needs or those of anyone else you feel may benefit from meeting or talking to me. So feel free to contact me at any time!

Richard Martin is The Force Multiplier. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to radically improve performance, grow, and thrive in the face of rapid change, harsh competition, and increasing uncertainty.

© 2015 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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