Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Leadership that Empowers

Stymie or Stimulate
Unfortunately many leaders block and stymie the initiative of the people they serve yet the important challenge for leaders is to address this question: How can we leaders better empower our people to use their gifts and get on and make their unique contribution?

Scarcity in the Sahara
It happened in the Sahara Desert during the Second World War where there was a French battalion serving in a very remote area. Because of this food supplies were often scarce and at one stage their clothes were absolutely worn out. All radio requests for new supplies went unheeded until one day the Red Cross dropped from a plane a great big bag of new uniforms. The soldiers were delighted.

But when some of the officers untied the canvas bag they discovered that very few of the clothes had labels and those that did obviously weren’t the size they purported to be! The officers puzzled among themselves wondering how ever they would work out a system so that every soldier got clothes that would fit.

But while they were nutting out this problem the crusty old French commander stood before the soldiers and simply bellowed out: “Debrouillez-vous!” Which roughly translated means “Sort it out.” “You sort it out!”

All at once there was a massive dive into this mountain of clothes. Here they were thrashing around, trying them on and sorting them out. But before too long all these soldiers were happily fitted out, clothed and in their right uniforms. It all worked out amazingly well except for one poor chap who ended up with two left boots!

Foolish or Gifted
Sometimes when we are appointed to leadership, we think that we are surrounded by fools! We are the experts and every else are idiots. They need us to organise them and sort everything out, to decide, to approve, to control.

The soldiers in the Sahara remind us that our people are not nincompoops and if as leaders we protect them, if we encourage them and empower them they can be trusted to tackle even those things that we as leaders thought were unsolvable.

Geoff Pound

Image: Sahara Scene