When I first starting studying leadership years ago, I’d find myself in conversations with friends and invariably a leadership challenge they were experiencing would come up. Sometimes, I’d even know how to solve it. I’d usually reference a book or an idea I had recently studied. Sometimes in my enthusiasm, I’d even go out and purchase the resource for them. Unfortunately, when I followed up a few weeks later to see what had happened, they had rarely bothered to look at what I had provided them.
Several years later, I got a consulting assignment to develop a plan to significantly improve an organization’s corporate culture. In fact, I was told this was my chance to “really shape the project.” I spent the next few months analyzing employee survey data, referencing strategic plans and carefully crafting a solution. Finally I got to present my plan to a senior client in a boardroom meeting and was thrilled when he accepted it. Now it was time to get to work. But much to my chagrin, a bigger problem soon emerged: no one wanted to take responsibility for seeing the plan through.
These experiences have taught and confirmed for me a simple but poignant lesson: you can’t want something for other people more than they want it for themselves. It doesn’t matter how much you care if they don’t.