This past week at our at our homeschool community group I was helping put up tables from our assembly room. The tables are round and after folding the legs, we have to roll them down a long hallway to a storage area. I simply stood the table on its side and gave it a good push and it started rolling down the hallway. Other than a few minor corrections to keep it on course and a few additional pushes, I barely had to touch the table while it rolled down the hall from its own momentum. This is basic physics, Newton’s first law:
“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
My helper that day was a young boy about my daughter, Annabelle’s age (10). Rather than setting the table in motion and allowing it to roll, he was using both hands to attempt to control the table as it rolled down the hall. It was difficult to watch as the table wobbled to and fro. Unfortunately, his attempt to control the table was the “unbalanced force” that was preventing the table from traveling at the “same speed and same direction.”
As leaders, we sometimes think that the more control we have, the better things will go, when in fact, control often has quite the opposite effect. In the words of Dr. Tim Elmore, “Control is a myth. None of us are actually ‘in control.'” In my book Leader Farming, I give some practical tools to help leaders make the shift from being a “command and control” style leader to a leader that allows people the freedom to grow and become the best version of themselves.
My primary role as the leader is to set the conditions for growth, to prepare the soil (establish the culture) and plant the seeds. It’s my job to set things in motion, then step back and let them roll. Yes, I will offer correction if they get off course, but I will not attempt to control their entire journey.
One recent example of this is the creation of Lean6Ninja. My goal was to get my team to start thinking lean. While the subject of “lean” is beyond the scope of this blog (watch this video if you want to learn more), this idea has set in motion a culture of continuous improvement inside my organization. A lean culture thrives on the ideas of team members and is the opposite of an organization that runs with “top-down” control. Remember, control is a myth and your attempt to exert it, is most likely having the opposite of the desired effect.