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Tag: Dr. George Kohlrieser

Turning Leadership Challenges into Questions … and lose Control

Turning Leadership Challenges into Questions … and lose Control

Lose Control? Should you want to do that as a leader? Should you ever just “let go” of the reigns, and give control to the people? Won’t they just run amok and act out scenes from the Caine Mutiny if that’s the case?

I had the benefit of listening to Dr. George Kohlrieser, organizational and clinical psychologist and Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland and former hostage negotiator, in the last week. He recounted a variety of stories that talked to working through challenges in the most daring of situations and a few things stuck out for me.

He talked about working with a kidnapper in a hostage situation that was very particular about his needs and refused to listen to anyone. Dr. Kohlreiser began asking him a series of questions – do you want to stay on the floor you are on to talk with others around, or go to another floor? Would you like to use the phone or a video camera to call? He continued to ask questions of the kidnapper, even to the point where he knew he would be arrested, “Would you like to be handcuffed in the front or the back?” and “Do you want someone to walk you out, or do you want to do it on your own”?

Even under these terms (and I’m leaving out some for brevity!), knowing the kidnapper had done egregious things, Dr. Kohlreiser gave him control of the situation, or perceived control. Did Dr. K really care which way the handcuffs sat? No, he just wanted them on the kidnapper. However, in giving the kidnapper the questions, the power, and the perceived control – he built trust with him, a rapport – and empowered the kidnapper to answer the questions, and go willingly with what Dr. K wanted him to do.

How does this apply to your leadership? Next time you have a challenge on your hands – or you don’t know how to answer someone asking how to move forward on a situation or project – ASK QUESTIONS. Give them the POWER OF CHOICE. The questions don’t have to be hard, or particularly impactful – but by allowing them to control their own direction, you will help them move closer to the course you’ve charted for you both.

The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II

Additional information: Dr. George Kohlrieser created and directs the International Institute for Management Development (IMD)’s flagship High Performance Leadership (HPL) program. He is also the author of the award-winning bestseller Hostage at The Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others and Raise Performance and Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership. George has been a guest on the BBC, CNN, ABC and CBS, and his work has been featured in the WSJ, the NYT, and the Economist.