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It felt creepy and uncomfortable to hear the project team lead say during the kick-off meeting, “I know exactly what we need to do to get this body of work done. All you have to do is do as I say, and we’ll all get a big bonus.”

Perhaps it’s my confirmation bias working overtime because I hear many people expressing a similar sentiment. I’ve got this; just follow my lead. Let me do the thinking, and everything will be good to go. I’m the one with the answers. These declarations are delivered emphatically, signaling zero openness to alternate ideas.

In an increasingly connected world that’s dominated by diversity, moving beyond confidence into the hubris and arrogance of this follow me/my way isn’t a strong leadership position, no matter how technically smart someone may be.

Being an effective leader begins with leading ourselves, which means being open to other points of view and ways of doing things other than our own.

The ideal leadership/followership equilibrium results when respect and empathy are displayed; diversity of thought, opinion, perspective, and experience is sought and embraced; both tradition and innovation are valued; and everyone is encouraged to have an open mind and heart.

Leadership…is an act of love in the face of an uncertain world. ~Umair Haque, author

In a world in which we expect the neighborhood ice cream shop to offer up at least 31 flavors from which to choose, leaders who want to deliver both economics and engagement need to bring the same expectation of variety to their work and not force one ideology—theirs.

Sometimes this my-way-or-the-highway approach is the result of an abundance of dogmatic thinking or being hyper-skeptical of other’s abilities and differing opinions.

Other times, ego, a mega-need for control, and too little respect for others are the drivers.

Heard that the office grapevine describes you as bossy, opinionated, and over-bearing? Crashed and burned in a feedback session or 360 review? Become aware that you’re never invited to join anyone for a coffee, lunch, or after-work cocktail?

If so, and you’re not happy with those outcomes, it’s time to explore five matters—need for control, motives, insecurity, orientation to facts and opinions, and regard for others. Ask yourself some uncomfortable questions for a good cause—and to become a more effective leader.


5 questions to ask to build trust and respect


How deep rooted is my need for being in control?


  • Do I see those who aren’t thinking or doing things “my way” as a challenge to my authority?
  • Am I open to considering that my way may not be the only way?
  • Can I permit those around me to do things their way as long as they produce the results I’m responsible for delivering?
  • Can I accept that what’s right for others may be different than what’s right for me?
  • Can I accept that different doesn’t mean wrong?
  • Am I willing to trust others?

Do I have an agenda?


  • What are my motives for wanting to be right and for converting people to my point of view?
  • Am I in it for “me” or for “we?” (Sometimes the motivation to “fix” others stems from a sincere desire to help them be their best. Other times the motive is less pure.)
  • Do I have an ego-centric need to be the hero who saves the day or the person with all the right answers?
  • Can I accept that helping people grow their skills and abilities is an ongoing process aimed at what’s best for them, not a one-time event that makes me look good?

Am I hiding something?


  • Is my interest in fixing others an attempt to hide my own feelings of incompetence or insecurity?
  • Are my motives for wanting to change others a way to deflect my inner concerns about my own qualifications?
  • Is my confidence real or just for show?

Am I being curious or judgmental?


  • Do I let my opinion masquerade as fact? (Opinions are personal points of view, judgments, and conclusions, i.e., February is the best month. Steve is a bad boss. Older women should have short hair. Facts are concrete realities that are verifiable by observation, i.e., the earth makes one rotation every 24 hours; consistent with the rules of a symbol system, i.e., 2+2=4; or apply objective standards of value, i.e., stealing is against the law.)
  • Do I engage in critical thinking by seeking out a spectrum of ideas, or do I always go with my gut?
  • Would others day I practice “tend and befriend” or “fight or flight?”

Am I ready to give positional unconditional regard?

Mull over:

  • Can I accept that having positive unconditional regard for someone doesn’t require that I accept their differing point of view, only that I acknowledge—without judgment—their right to believe, think, and act differently than I do?
  • How can I become capable of making room for everyone by extending positive unconditional regard no matter how they think or act?

Leaders…lead us to truth, worth, nobility, wonder, imagination, joy, heartbreak, challenge, rebellion, and meaning. ~Umair Haque, author

Ready to let go of absolute certainty and begin sampling other points of view?


Image credit (before quote added): Pixabay