Leading with Influence


As a leader, have you tried to do it all yourself?  Provide all the answers?  Deliver all the guidance?  Make all the decisions?  Exodus 18:13 – 18 (Living Bible) describes such a situation:

“The next day Moses sat as usual to hear the people’s complaints against each other, from morning to evening.   When Moses’ father-in-law saw how much time this was taking, he said, ‘Why are you trying to do all this alone, with people standing here all day long to get your help?’

Well, because the people come to me with their disputes, to ask for God’s decisions,’ Moses told him. ‘I am their judge, deciding who is right and who is wrong, and instructing them in God’s ways. I apply the laws of God to their particular disputes.’  

‘It’s not right!’ his father-in-law exclaimed.  ‘You’re going to wear yourself out—and if you do, what will happen to the people? Moses, this job is too heavy a burden for you to try to handle all by yourself.’”

Moses’ coach, his father-in-law, was quick to point out the pitfall of continuing his business-as-usual “go-to” leader role.  While seemingly a position of power and influence, his personal effectiveness would suffer over time – work overload, reduced span of influence, ineffectiveness and ultimately burnout.  Today, one’s professional branding is also impacted, becoming known as the best operational manager, rather than the influential leader.

Leaders can take actions early to position themselves and the business functions for effectiveness and success.  Consider the following:

Step 1:  DESIGN an organizational structure that best supports achieving business objectives.  Questions to explore:  Is an organization with multiple levels of management or a flat organization with substantially fewer levels of management hierarchy needed?  Can you accomplish results with a manager-led team or self-managed team?  Is a wide span of control (e.g. the number of functions or people within the structure) or more narrowly focused organization most effective?  Will an end-to-end business process structure achieve the greatest results or is a specialized functions design most effective for the situation?

Step 2:  SELECT individuals with the right knowledge, skills, and abilities to fill roles.  One of the leader’s most effective and important responsibilities is selecting individuals to fill positions.  While a leader may hesitate to hire candidates who have greater knowledge, skills, and abilities than he/she, the effective leader knows that a “right fit” in the position (including a candidate who is more technically or functionally intellectually equipped than the leader) frees the leader up for a higher-level, strategic focus.

Step 3:  DEFINE the total scope of responsibilities.  Create an inventory of all responsibilities.  Then, determine what you will or must do yourself as the leader, such as establishing and maintaining rapport with business executives.  Only after defining what you must do yourself can you then consider how to divide the remaining work and identify the potential candidates to do the work.

Step 4:  DELEGATE responsibility, authority, and aligned accountability for doing completed work.  As Harold Hook, creator of the management language Model-Netics (1971) affirmed, delegation without definition is abdication of responsibility.  Consequently, Step 3 is necessary before delegating responsibilities to others.   Keep in mind the staff member’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and willingness to actively engage and accept responsibility, authority, and accountability.

Step 5:  TRAIN, DEVELOP, and COACH staff members to do the work.  Do not presume that those to whom you delegate responsibility and accountability are fully equipped to execute in the role, regardless of prior experience.  It is your responsibility to assess performance needs, and then train, develop and coach staff members for success.

What is it that makes this an effective process?  TRUST.  When initially delegating responsibility and accountability to a staff member, there could be a lower level of trust, keeping you more engaged early in the transition of duties.  As the staff member becomes more competent and confident in executing delegated responsibilities, trust grows and your involvement in addressing routine matters decreases over time as the staff member grows as a leader.

John Maxwell, author – speaker – pastor, says it best, “A leader who produces other leaders multiplies their influences.”  Embracing this process helps you to develop leaders, while leading with greater impact, influence and endurance for the long-term.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.