A leader who can step back and encourage team members to put forward ideas in their areas of expertise will generally have a much more engaged, productive team.   One of my favourite books calls this “Leading from any Chair”.  The book is “The Art of Possibility”  by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.  http://www.benjaminzander.com/book/   Benjamin describes how much better an orchestra could perform when the conductor allowed the orchestra members to suggest better ways to play the music and even to conduct sometimes.   Orchestras are traditionally very heirarchical and structured organizations.

There are many comparisons to this in the corporate world.   Leaders spend a great deal of time on selecting talented people and then are sometimes unable to tap into their talents and keep them engaged.    How many times have you seen a team where the talented people have left and the less talented stayed, leaving a weaker team?      This can happen because of poor selection in matching skills to the job, but it can also occur because the leader does not know how to encourage effective ” leading from any chair”.  

Here’s a few suggestions to encourage “leading from any chair”:

– Ask people to prepare their suggestions and  ideas in a short written  form.   Prepare a simple structure for them that  includes the issue or opportunity, the idea, and the anticipated result.  This forces them to think about the idea first but do not create too much structure on this,  or many good ideas will never be communicated.     

– Respond to every idea in a timely manner.   Even if you do not agree with the idea, remember that you want to encourage people to think of good ideas, so ask some questions to uncover their thinking rather than just saying you do not like the idea.  By asking questions, you will help them to think it through more and learn.  Show respect and do not act judgmental.

– Celebrate great ideas and have the person or people who generated the idea lead the execution if possible.   Also encourage teammembers to work together on an idea before submitting it  – this encourages a more collaborative approach and a more well-thought-out idea. 


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