3 Critical Shifts for Government Leaders

I always enjoy working with new or aspiring govie leaders and sharing ideas about Multipliers – leaders who fully utilize and amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them. A successful transition from an individual contributor to a Multiplier leader begin with a critical shift in mindset. Once you become a leader the success of the team far outweighs any individual contribution that you can make. As a leader, you provide more value to your agency through facilitating the success and growth of your team as opposed to continuing to focus on your own ideas and contributions.

For many new, and experienced, leaders this can be a challenging transition. Fortunately, through our extensive Multipliers research lead by Liz Wiseman, a Top 10 leadership thinker, we have identified critical shifts that will help leaders in any stage of their career to unleash the full intelligence across their teams and everyone around them.

From Answers to Questions. One major revelation for many leaders I work with is the realization that leaders do not need to have all the answers. In fact, when a leader constantly provides ideas and solutions their teams can become idea lazy and simply wait for the leaders to provide the answers. As a result, teams stop coming up with their own ideas which is a huge waste for any organization. Making the shift from having all the answers to asking the right questions allows a leader to tap into the intelligence of others while also expanding the thinking of others. To start experiment with leading a meeting or conversation by only asking questions.

Make a Debate. Leaders sometimes feel pressured to make fast, high-stakes decision. Unfortunately, quick decision made in relative isolation leave teams in the dark trying to understand the rationale behind a decision. The result being slower time to execute on a decision. On the other hand, we found that Multipliers drive to the best decisions by engaging others in rigorous debate to tap into their collective intelligence. Instead of offering a fast answer on a critical decision, frame a debate question with options and ask others to weigh in with data and their point of view.

Play Fewer Chips. While popular culture at times glorifies the ‘Always On’ leaders who is assertive and dynamic, consider the impact these leaders has on their followers. In reality, these leaders do not leave space for others to contribute while their key messages can fall on deaf ears that have already tuned them out.  Start by identifying an upcoming meeting or initiative that you want to your team to own, then give yourself a limited number of chips to play, each chip representing a single contribution. This tactic will allow you to contribute in small but powerful doses and create space for others to be big.

Multipliers seek growth for themselves and those around them. Recently I had the opportunity to speak at a leadership development event for an organization’s aspiring leaders. The speaker before me, an alumnus of the organization, encouraged the attendees to stay with the organization as long as they were learning and growing. This is wonderful advice wherever you are in your career. But consider that as you make the shift to being a leader one of your most critical roles is to continually create opportunities for others to learn and grow.

Jon Haverly is a Multipliers Master Practitioner with The Wiseman Group focusing on conducting leadership research and helping to develop public sector leaders. He has worked with a variety of government agencies for the past 20 years in the areas of project management, portfolio management and leadership. He has been a PMI certified Project Management Professional since 2001.

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