patrick leddin

Engage People – An Essential Mindset of New Leaders

It seems obvious. A new leader is given a team of smart people who have been hired because of their abilities and potential. Of course, the new leader will engage them in helping make decisions.

Obvious or not, new leaders – or leaders at any level – struggle with embracing and engaging others.

Whether it is from a fear of showing vulnerability, a desire to move quickly and not get bogged down by conversation, or a need to impress, many new leaders fail to engage their people in problem solving. Engaging others is one of the best ways for a new leader to learn. Asking questions, listening to understand, and seeking advice – begin with the mindset of engaging others.

Engaging others is not merely about gaining buy-in. It’s about creating a better answer. Yes, the leader must make the ultimate decision, but that decision should be informed by the collective wisdom of the team, not the isolated perspective of the leader.

What about your new leaders?

Here are a few questions to get you thinking about the leader you are, or the new leaders you are developing:

  • How do new leaders in your organization seek advice and input from a variety of people? Does the organization even encourage or allow such thinking?
  • Has a desire to appear in charge caused some new leaders to put too much on their shoulders and isolate themselves from team members?
  • What might new leaders do differently in the future to better engage their people?

Take it from me

Twenty-plus years ago, I was an army lieutenant serving as a platoon leader of a 39-person airborne infantry platoon. As a new leader, there were times when I, like many new leaders, failed to engage others. Much like ignoring gravity comes at a price, failing to engage others can be costly as well. Don’t allow yourselves or others to fall into this trap.

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It sounds obvious, but most of us have a way of piling up “must-do” priorities, making it impossible to do a very good job on any of them. One recipe for disengaging people is to overwhelm them with things to do, all of which are “Job 1” and “key priorities” and “top-of-the-list.”

But if you unleash people to focus on one, two, or three wildly important goals—no more—they will sense the significance of what they’re doing and they’ll have a chance to win. There is tremendous power in focus. As you prioritize your goals, think about those things that must be done or nothing else matters, focus on those true priorities, and move lower priorities to the back burner.

Scientist Call It “Exhaustion Syndrome” and It’s Killing Your Team

All too many of us suffer from a personal energy crisis. We no longer work a standard eight-hour day. Our minds are constantly churning trying to make high value decisions, virtually twenty-four hours day. Our mode of life today—constant stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise and sleep—leads to what scientists call “exhaustion syndrome.”