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Confession: I was a benevolent dictator

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

by Bob Tiede,

Editor's note: This article is chapter 1 from Now That’s A Great Question by Bob Tiede, Used by permission.

I thought the job of a leader was to be directive i.e. to tell his/her staff what to do.

I loved my staff! I wanted the very best for them. I wanted to do everything I could to help them win.

My strategy for their development as leaders was for them to hang around me. I frequently said, “A lot more is caught than taught! If you just hang around me you will learn a lot!”

My strategy for helping them to succeed was to let them benefit from everything I knew that would help them climb the mountain successfully.

When they came to me with a problem, I gave them step-by-step instructions on how to solve it.

When they came to me with an idea, I applauded them for their idea and then shared with them two or more things that would add horsepower to their plan.

When I asked them to take on a new project—if they said “Yes!”—I asked them to pull out a legal pad and I gave them step-by-step instructions on how to do it.

And when one of my staff left my office, I smiled with the thought that they were walking away so impressed with my wisdom, and so appreciative that I had given them the perfect road map to success. I was absolutely clueless about how my “over-helpfulness” was actually making them feel.

Several years ago at the Global Leadership Summit, put on by the Willow Creek Association, I saw that one of the speakers was Liz Wiseman, speaking on Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter—the same title as her book.

Liz Wiseman at Global Leadership Summit

I thought, “This is going to be [a] great session—because she will be talking about leaders like me!” But I was in for a big surprise.

Liz started by talking about “diminishers.” And I soon realized she was talking about me! The more she shared, the lower I sank in my chair. What I had thought were “multiplier” traits were actually “diminisher” traits.