Don’t Make This Leadership Mistake

Rod Pickett
2 min readAug 21

People dislike being told what to do. You could almost say that the fastest way to get someone to do something is to tell them not to do it.

Michael V. Pantalon, Instant Influence

“Oh yeah? You’re not the boss of me.”

Children may be the only ones who say these words, but they are not the only ones to feel this way.

Human beings don’t like to be told what to do.

There are some situations where it is necessary for us to yield to some authority no matter how much resistance we feel.

But this way of influencing people is very inefficient and leads to indirect sabotage or outright rebellion.

When leaders repeatedly say, “Because I said so,” things do not go well.

This same dynamic exists when we try to shape our own behavior.

When we tell ourselves that we should do or stop doing something, we resist.

This is true even when we agree that the change is desirable.

Someone said leadership is getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.

We need to take this one step further and think about getting people to do what is important to them because it is important to them.

Anything less is not true leadership.

We’ve heard it said that power corrupts. But when we have authority, we get lazy.

It takes more skill and effort to give autonomy to those we lead.

But if we give them autonomy when it is feasible, they are more likely to cooperate when it is not.

When my older daughter was young and I asked her to do me a favor, she would ask me, “Do I have to.”

I would answer, “No. You don’t have to.”

Nearly every time she chose to do the favor.

We can use this approach on ourselves.

We don’t do many of the things we know we should because we focus on why it will be too hard or because we aren’t sure how to start.

We can lessen the difficulty by telling ourselves we only have to do ten minutes.

We can start by thinking of the smallest step we can take to move toward the goal.

Instead of focusing on why we are resisting, we can focus on why we really do want to make that change.

If we learn how to lead ourselves, then we have a chance at becoming an effective leader — or parent.

— Rod Pickett

Now available at Amazon: The Courageous Heart: Wisdom for Difficult Times in paperback and eBook.

Rod Pickett

Rod Pickett is a writer, pastor, teacher, photographer, real estate broker, certified personal trainer, consultant, woodworker, and life-long learner.