Archive for May 2nd, 2008

You Say Yes… I Say No….

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

What makes a good leader or manager?

Answering that question would take a book (and there are any number of books written on the topic). And of course, there are many answers to the question.

But one in particular comes up often in BBYO, and it’s a bit subtle. Subtle, in that it’s a matter of attitude – yet it’s of enormous significance.

Fortunately, it’s an easy one to evaluate. A simple answer to a simple question. Ask yourself this:

When someone comes and asks you if they can do something, or how to do something, do you try to answer yes, or do you tend to answer no?

One measure of excellence in leadership is whether the leader tries to answer yes to requests. A leader who does this is one who empowers others – because they not only avoid placing obstacles in the way of their followers, they help others to overcome and avoid other obstacles. A leader who does this builds other leaders and ultimately strengthens the entire organization.

You’d be amazed how many leaders don’t do this. Why? because saying “no” is easy. Saying “no” means that YOU have the POWER. Saying NO is safe – you rarely get in trouble for saying no. If you say yes and something goes wrong, you share part of the blame – that’s scary, especially since one of the consequences of empowering others is that the end result isn’t entirely in your hands.

This principle does not apply only to youth leaders. It applies to advisors as well. A good advisor rarely says a simple “no”. When a good advisor has to set limits (and setting limits is absolutely part of an advisor’s job), those limits will always be accompanied by an explanation of those limits, a list of alternate approaches, and a willing ear to listen to further alternatives.

The principle even applies (especially applies) to staff – not only in their relationships with youth, but in their relationships with each other. Good managers empower their people. Bad ones collect information and power and thrive on their ability to say NO!

Which brings us back to attitude. The best leaders, advisors and managers sometimes have to say no. But when they do, you’ll know that they are doing it reluctantly as a last resort. And if they are really good (and if you are reasonably open minded), when they do you’ll find you reluctantly agree with their decision.