As I have grown in understanding myself to lead others, I recognize a tendency I have that is both a positive and a liability. In Myers Briggs language, I am a natural feeler. My gut reaction to others that are encountering difficulty is to support them through a high five, a pat on the back or a hand clap. All of these supportive gestures involves the “affirming” side of the hand. I am sure that anyone who has spent much time with me has felt a warm, friendly touch from my leadership style.
But the problem is, development requires not only the affirming side of the hand but the challenging side as well. To develop someone else to their full potential sometimes requires them to be challenged in a way that brings out a better effort or a higher level of performance. I know leaders who are naturally gifted at challenge, and it offers a strength and a threat to their leadership impact.
Since both sides of the hand are necessary to develop someone to their full potential, a liberating leader must learn how to do both. A self awareness of which style comes most naturally is the best place to start. The goal is never to replace ones natural style with the other, but rather to expand and enhance leadership impact by leveraging the natural tendency as you employ the less natural style.
Once I recognize my own tendency, I can intentionally offer feedback from the other side of the hand. For me, this means finding ways to challenge. The good news is, you never have to be as good at the awkward side of the hand as you are with your preferred side. Because others have known me as an affirmer, when I do offer a challenge it tends to have a multiplied impact, even if I am a little hesitant in its delivery.
As I have grown in this skill myself, I have also seen the value of teaching others. The impact of learning to use both sides of the hand helps a leader transform from a protector or a dominator to one who is truly a liberator—a leader worth following. The hand illustration can be a simple reminder with profound development results.