Straightjacket or springboard? What kind of leader are you?

I was reminded recently what a former employee said: the direction I provided to the team was more like a ‘Springboard’ than a ‘Straightjacket’. Just picture it. A springboard – launching possibilities. A straightjacket – tying people’s hands and keeping them under control.

As I reflect on it now I see it as a great metaphor for leadership. I notice that it wasn’t just the leadership in the strategy and direction that was a Springboard, it also is about the kind of space or environment being created.

Nurturing teams, especially with knowledge workers, is a fine balance of being clear about the destination while creating space for their ideas and ways to solve the challenge. And that’s the opposite of a Straightjacket.

So what kind of space does leading like a Springboard create? The space to explore different ways to meet the objectives. The space to go down paths that may not result in the ultimate solution, but may bring to light some ideas that will contribute to achieving better results. The space to bring ideas that may not be on strategy – and be invited to see how they reflect the direction or not. But that’s not all of it.

At it’s best, a Springboard can launch people into a ‘huge’ space? When the space is ‘huge’ you are also creating the ideal environment for productivity and positivity. The space to be yourself and truly bring your talents – your brains, your humour, your capabilities, your quirks, your brilliance – a space where these are respected. And that leads to the best productivity and performance from everyone.

Are you being a leader who’s a Springboard or a Straightjacket? What could you change to be more like a Springboard leader?

Have you worked with a leader who was a Springboard or a Straightjacket? What was the experience like?

I’d love for you to join the conversation on this topic …


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