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In my book, The Six Attributes of a Leadership Mindset, I talk about three different leadership worldviews: task, teach, and create. Each worldview has its focus. Task sees the job of a leader as ensuring the job gets done. A teach worldview sees leadership as imparting knowledge. Create concentrates on growing other leaders.
Though each are useful at different times, in this blog, I’d like to focus on how the task and teach worldviews can create the unintended side effect of making it tough to ask for help.
Asking for Help: A Leadership Conundrum
To start, let’s be clear about the kind of help I’m talking about. It might be asking peers for their take on a challenge in a leader’s department. It might be asking for help on a project. It could be asking for help leading under difficult circumstances.
The reason we need help can be diverse. The common thread is, as leaders, what do we do when we find ourselves unsure of our next step?
Asking for Help: A Comment on Leadership
If your answer to that is ask for help you may hold a create leadership worldview. For a leader with a task or teach worldview, asking for help can feel like it undermines their role as a leader.
After all, if I believe my team needs to deliver results, then it’s my job to make sure they do that. In this way of thinking, I’m the leader because I know the best way of doing something. And if that’s the role I cast myself in, then asking for help implies I don’t know the best way. That means, so the thinking goes, I can’t be a very good leader.
There’s a similar logic with the teach worldview. If it’s my job to teach others, I must have the knowledge to start with. And if I have to ask for help that’s an admission I don’t.
As you can see the worldview of both task and teach leaders rests on not asking for help since doing so means I’m not an effective leader.
The Consequences of Leaders Not Asking for Help
Thinking that way has its consequences beyond not getting the help we may need. It creates an air of infallibility and that sends a message to our team and wider business that getting things right is paramount. From that it follows that not asking for help stifles innovation because the focus is on getting it right, not experimenting. We may even be ensuring that our people look back to what’s been done before as a guide for what to do in the future.
A leader who models not asking for help could inadvertently be inhibiting collaboration as colleagues take on the mantel of relying on themselves to solve a challenge.
Lastly, modelling not asking for help can create a culture where the wider business feels it has to know all the answers. That makes asking for help something akin to embarrassing – an admission, if you like, that we don’t know what we’re doing.
Growing Enterprise Thinkers: The Benefits of Leaders Asking for Help
Of course, some of the benefits of leaders asking for help are the opposite of what I’ve just noted. But it doesn’t end there. There’s also the effect on the leader themselves. If I’m a leader willing to ask for help, I’m also a leader who’s willing to be challenged, is humble, is looking for the right thing to do over the easy thing.
In terms of the six attributes, a leader asking for help is a leader demonstrating enterprise thinking. That’s because the premise of asking for help is that there’s help to be had. Another way of saying that is I ask for help because I see that I have the resources (and brains) of the entire enterprise at my disposal.
When I model that, I’m doing more than encouraging others to ask for help. I’m growing others as enterprise thinkers. I’m showing my team and business that we all have an entire business to draw on.
Help Asking for Help
If your leadership worldview leaves you reluctant to ask for help, try asking yourself these two questions next time you face a challenge.
- What message am I sending my team by not asking for help?
- How can I use this moment to demonstrate enterprise thinking to my team?
Lastly, don’t forget that leaders don’t need to have all the answers, they just have to know where to find them.
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What to dive deeper?
Check out The Six Attributes of a Leadership Mindset by Joe Britto
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