Leadership Skills: Knowing the Difference

Encouraging Group Interaction is Not a Weakness in Leadership

God, Grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

– REINHOLD NIEBUHR, “The Serenity Prayer”

When to intervene and when to observe is one of the primary challenges of leadership.

As a young person, I felt that I had to have all the answers and all the solutions. I thought that leadership was about telling people what to do. I perceived that delegation, listening, and letting others provide answers was a weakness in leadership.

I now see another perspective.

As a meeting facilitator, I had to learn to observe what was happening in the group. I had to learn when to let the group struggle to find its way, and when to intervene.

As leaders, we learn to observe what’s happening in groups. We learn to encourage individual thinking. We learn to avoid group emotional process such as “group think.”

Developing systems for group interaction is a privileged duty of the leader. Teaching groups to function as a finely-tuned ensemble, such as a symphony orchestra, is a different paradigm for most leaders.

When to observe, and when to intervene, is the issue.

Paying attention is the skill.

We learn by doing, observing, and listening. The more we rehearse this, the better we get. Wisdom comes to those who seek it.

Leadership has some counterintuitive factors. The less the leader pushes, the more happens.

How can this play out in the organization you lead?


Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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(c) 2012 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.


Hugh Ballou (Author)