Enable Others to Act

Fostering Collaboration and Strengthening Others

Daniel Day-Lewis, in his Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech for the leading role in the Abraham Lincoln biopic, said, “I’d like to thank… our mighty team of co-conspirators. At the apex of that human pyramid, there are 3 men to whom I owe this and a great deal more”.

Indeed the best actor needs everyone in the entire production crew to enable him to do his act and shine.

Just like actors, leaders do not act alone. They too need their teams to work together in order to achieve shared goals. Yet, for many young leaders in school, their concept of leadership is to stand up front and/or do things all by their lonesome selves. No wonder many of the student leaders, when we first meet them, are reluctant to be leaders. Then again, there are also those who have felt that it is an esteemed honour to be given a position or title and so they have to do the work themselves. It is part of our work in Halogen to tell them that is not how it always has to work!

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of bestseller The Leadership Challenge®, found from over 30 years of research that no extraordinary achievement ever occurred without the active involvement and support of many people. Simply put, leaders cannot do it alone. Leadership is a team effort; leaders have to Enable Others to Act. To do this, leaders have to commit to the following:

• Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships.
• Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.

While collaboration simply means working together, the conditions to sustain it is far more exacting. What is needed is a climate of trust. We have often heard people say, “He’s got to earn my trust”. Yet, building trust requires leaders to first trust. Be willing to share your values, your dreams, your hopes. Be willing to share resources, to delegate, to listen, and to be influenced. Trust begets trust.

But, let us be real. Sometimes, trust fails. When that happens, we just have to work at it again—from the top. You have to take the risk and demonstrate your trust in them all over again.

Also, leaders must understand the paradox of power: You become more powerful when you give your own power away.

“Be willing to share your values, your dreams, your hopes. Be willing to share resources, to delegate, to listen, and to be influenced. Trust begets trust.”

Empowering others is about liberating them to use what skills and talent they already have, and expanding their opportunities to serve a common and meaningful purpose. This calls for providing choices and options instead of prescribing actions, just like how every single Ritz-Carlton employee is entrusted to spend up to $2,000 to make a single guest satisfied—without approval from their general manager. It is no wonder why this hotel group leads the ranks when it comes to providing the best overall guest experience.

While strengthening others to make decisions and do tasks, we must be careful to match challenges with their competence so they feel confident enough to act, rather than having their morale lowered when they feel helpless and unable.

Here are some things we can do to Enable Others to Act
  • Extend trust to students first by sharing information about yourself.
  • Conduct teambuilding activities to facilitate interactions which can help nurture relationships and build trust.
  • Assign important tasks to students. They are not just do-ers but will feel a sense of ownership, belonging and empowerment when they are allowed to make decisions.
  • Keep students sufficiently challenged and engaged by assigning tasks that match their capability.
  • Provide the necessary resources and coaching for students to perform their tasks effectively.

As Kouzes and Posner say, “A grand dream doesn’t become a significant reality through the actions of a single person”. Daniel Day-Lewis deserves his Oscar. But it was not his effort alone. The whole production crew made it possible. It was the trust and the relationships, the competence and confidence. That was what enabled him to act.


Article by Pearl Pang
The Leadership Challenge® (TLC) is a leadership development programme created by bestselling authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner. This programme is backed by 30 years of original research and data from over three million leaders. It is a comprehensive suite of products, programmes and services proven to cultivate and liberate the leadership potential in every person, at every level, in any organisation. Halogen conducts TLC workshops for MOE educators at a special price.

If you have attended TLC, you can also up your leadership a notch by joining the Student Leadership Challenge® Certified Facilitator’s Training (SLCCFT) which will certify you as a student trainer for the student edition of the programme.

For enquiries, please contact us at [email protected] or +65 6509 6700.

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