The Power of Letting Other People Shine

Howard Spierer


For those of you who know me, it should not come as a surprise to hear that when I first joined this organization I was cocky and arrogant and had an answer for everything. It was at that time that I came to learn a very valuable lesson from an MDI leader in the SouthWest Len Guida.

We were having internationals in Vancouver. Yes, at one time we had a very healthy presence in British Columbia. My division was being interviewed. I was the DC. I was relatively new to the job. Yet, I seemed to have an answer for everything, even though most of the men in the room were convinced I couldn’t possibly know what I was doing. It was obvious that the men were getting frustrated. In the face of that frustration I continued to be a cocky wise ass. And things did not go well from there. My mouth was duct taped and I was removed from my job.

I was a little shell shocked and very pissed. After the interview, most of the men treated me like a pariah. However, Len took me aside and explained the following to me:

The men just wanted to feel like they could contribute something to you. By having all the answers, you took that away from them. So, all that was left for them was to tear you down, and men love to tear stuff apart.

What I have since come to master is the art of letting other people shine.

As a leader I have found that it is not necessary for me to let others see that I have it all figured out. Rather it is more empowering and enrolling to let others see that I am able to evaluate input from others and make the right decision. I have found that appearing to always have the answer breeds both distrust and laziness.

Distrust because it is human nature to question and the appearance of seeming to know everything often leads others to believe that I have something to hide. It’s not a contest and I’m not winning anything for having all the right answers.

Laziness arises because if the people you’re leading are not engaged, they simply stop paying attention. Again, the exercise is less about problem solving and more about gaining momentum.

Since I usually know where I want to go, my job is about inspiring others into action. So, I set the table by laying out my vision and then I ask others how they think we can get there. Typically, what I was already thinking comes out of the mouth of someone else. My job has just become easier because all I need to say is, “Great idea; why don’t you run with it?” Rather than feeling that they’re doing my bidding, that person will feel and think that they now have something to prove, and they are already feeling good about themselves for coming up with such a good idea.

The lesson is relatively simple.

Once you’re in charge, it is less about showing that you know what to do and more about proving that you know how to inspire others to get it done.

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