Leadership Fail: Move it! Faster! Now!

by Alli Polin on February 11, 2014

People aren't motivated because a leader tells them what to do. Empower people instead

We had just left the kids’ classrooms to head to the car when the rain started to fall.  The drops came so slowly at first that I wasn’t even sure it was raining.  With each step, more drops began to drip from the sky with increasing intensity, and I tried to speed up our slow amble to a purposeful stride.

First Try at Inspiration

Come on!

Let’s Go!


Move it!

The children were as skilled at ignoring the raindrops as they were at ignoring my verbal “encouragement.” I tried another approach.

Next Attempt at Motivation

Dude! Your Good Job Certificate is going to get wet if you don’t get in the car.

Honey!  What are you going to do with a wet lunchbox?

Did they start to move faster?  Join me in a quick jog to avoid the downpour?  Nope.  They did stick their papers in their shirts and put their lunch boxes in their backpacks. Self-protection at it’s best.

Last Try for Engagement

Hey, Kid.  Do you want to lead us to the car?  You go first.

… And he did. 

Sounds a lot like organizational leadership, huh?

Faster! Now!

I meant yesterday!

Hurry or the competition will get there first!

Isn’t it time to try something new?

Be a leader that isn’t afraid to move from the front to walk behind, or beside…

ASK:  What do you think?


QUESTION:  What would you do?


SUGGEST:  Want to take lead on this?


ASK:  How can I help?


If you’re determined to show your leadership through telling others what to do, try this: Tell them, “YOU need to get us there.  YOU are the one we’re following.  Show us the way.”  And mean it.

How do you inspire and empower others?  What works?  What doesn’t?

For coaching, consulting or speaking Let’s Connect!

(Photo credit)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Mertz February 11, 2014 at 7:21 am


As leaders, we need to define why we cannot stay where we are and why we need to move from Point A to Point B. The visual picture of purpose and circumstances set the stage for teams to engage and be supported in their work. Collaborative efforts will produce much more and tap into the talent of each individual more than any coordinated solo efforts.



Alli Polin February 11, 2014 at 8:26 am

Usually, with my kids, I tell them we need to keep moving because we’re not planning to live at the school. HA!

Important points from you, Jon. Often, leaders mistake coordinated solo efforts for collaboration. Common goals are not the same as working towards them together.

Appreciate your insights!


Terri Klass February 11, 2014 at 8:06 am

I agree Alli that telling people what to do will not motivate them to action. It is when we encourage, empower and provide the direction that people propel themselves forward.

I love how your children can teach us powerful leadership lessons. Wouldn’t it be great if adults could reach back to their childhood to remind them how to lead?

Loved the post!


Alli Polin February 11, 2014 at 8:23 am

You are always such a strong champion of empowerment, Terri! Thanks for adding that it’s not only empowering that counts, however… It’s the direction and vision that are key parts of a successful outcome.

LOVE that question you posed too! Thank you!!


Joy Guthrie February 11, 2014 at 9:08 am

Another great lesson Alli. Thank you for sharing.


Alli Polin February 11, 2014 at 9:09 am

Thanks, Joy! I value your support and feedback!


Bill Benoist February 11, 2014 at 9:38 am

As I was reading your post, I was thinking about a project handed off to me last week for my team to take over.

Even though I was “empowered” to run with it as I see fit, I am not motivated by it. Mainly, I don’t have the resources, and was denied additional resources. The project quickly deflated me rather than energized me.

I guess in short order, we not only need the intrinsic motivation to run in the rain, we also need the right shoes ☺


Alli Polin February 11, 2014 at 9:55 am

So true, Bill! I can remember many times being in similar circumstances and the empowerment to run with it was not really a gift because there were so many other restrictions blocking success (like other human beings to help get it done!) In my case, I wonder if that was really empowerment or simply dumping from one plate to the next.

A sincere thanks for sharing your insights on this. You’ve really hit on a key point.


Lolly Daskal February 11, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Motivation starts within and so the best leaders, coaches, and mentors– know that asking the “right” kind of questions- is at the heart of motivating others.




Alli Polin February 18, 2014 at 3:18 am

Questions that take us within, to the places we’re most afraid to go on our own truly are powerful – more than telling someone then answers questions help them discover what they already know (and don’t know they already know it!)

Appreciate you tons, Lolly!


LaRae Quy February 11, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Beautiful illustration of how accountability draws out the leadership traits in all of us.

I am constantly amazed at how well you draw out leadership situations in ordinary life.

You must be an amazing coach! Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Alli!


Alli Polin February 18, 2014 at 3:17 am

You’re too kind, LaRae! Leadership lessons really are everywhere and, no surprise, opportunities to step up into our personal leadership are too.

Many thanks!


Karin Hurt February 17, 2014 at 7:54 am

Perfect example! People want to be included and encouraged to be a part. I see this works great in volunteer activities particularly.


Alli Polin February 18, 2014 at 3:16 am

Inclusion and encouragement tend to work wonders. With you all the way! Thanks so much, Karin!


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