Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. - George S. Patton
I have always appreciated this quote. It falls into line with part of my thoughts on leadership. In my previous roles as a manager or supervisor this was something I often considered when determining when to involve myself and when to let go. The issue is sometimes leadership quotes, while seemingly good most of the time are not always right. It is in knowing how to assess a situation and determine the right course of action that often makes the difference in successful leadership and just being in charge.
I learned early on as a parent and a leader in my home that sometimes the best ideas on leadership need to be evaluated when dealing with children. If you truly want to know what kind of leadership style you possess go and work with children for a few days. It is one of the surest ways to know if you are truly a leader or just someone who thinks they are in charge.
I have often thought of the quote of above when remembering a time when I asked my 3 oldest children to clean their bathroom. They were roughly at the ages of four, seven, and ten. I explained I wanted the bathroom straightened up and then told the older two to use a cleaning product to wipe down the surfaces and they needed to mop the floor. I told them I would be back up to check in about 45 minutes. Twenty minutes into their assignment I heard several loud noises that sounded like someone falling. I yelled upstairs, "Is everyone ok?" To which they responded, "Yes!" Another ten minutes went by and I continued to hear a thud ever so often. I decided to go and check and see what was happening. Upon opening the bathroom door, I discovered they were cleaning the bathroom floor by putting liquid soap on it and using the floor as a skating rink. They thought they were ingenious, I was questioning their sanity. As you can imagine, getting liquid hand soap off a linoleum floor is quite the job.
There were three takeaways I learned that day:
I often smile when I come across General Patton's quote. It reminds me, not only of the day of skating in liquid soap but also reminds me sometimes I need to provide parameters and step back and sometimes I need to be more involved. Leadership principles and ideas should guide and direct and provide a foundation to operate from but in the end, it is knowing which ones to use and when that distinguishes the successful leader.