This time, I got to observe as a follower and support my team leader. She was not exactly a willing team leader and I empathised with her. People always say “a leader must have clear focus and must be able to explain the objectives...” bla, bla bla.
But there isn’t a single individual who knows everything. I watched her; confused and quite clueless about the material we were working with. Meanwhile, the other team members who had a better understanding were careful not to “take over” the leadership role, as some had constantly been accused of this.
She never really made a decision on her own or countered ours. Initially we ended discussions with “...but you are the leader, what do you decide?” Her decision was always whatever we thought was right. The leadership changed but the new one, was not better informed. By the end of the simulation, the wording had changed to “hears what we think you should do” and the leader would comply. We were working against time.
I thought the leader’s (first one) actions were quite sensible in that case, but the other team members thought her role had been “taken from her” by the followers. So were we supposed to not offer guidance as much as our leader requested it simply because we were to allow her to “do her job”?...even if she didn’t know how? Bearing in mind, she didn’t want to lead in the first place.
I think that a wise leader does surround himself or herself with people who are more informed. I think that a leader who fails to step back and let a more knowledgeable team member, “call the shots,” while still retaining the power of the final word, is better than one who pretends to understand the situation and then makes an absolute mess of it. Isn’t that what the humility we’d been raving on is all about?
But what happens when the team members view this attitude as a weakness on the leader’s part? I personally would prefer a leader who admits to being clueless on some occasions, and making every effort to understand the situation, even if it means letting someone else play a more active “guiding” role than one who keeps silent because they’re the “boss” and causes a failure which would have been avoided.
Once again those, two words “culture” and “perception” come back to haunt me! There really are no answers to this leadership question, I see. In that case, maybe it really does come naturally to some people and not others.