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  • Writer's pictureMike Bensi

Why Leaders Need a Leadership User Guide

Last weekend, I was determined to assemble a new bookshelf for my son. But I couldn't find the instruction manual. No worries. I was convinced that I could handle it and I thought of this as a good lesson for my son that we didn't need instructions and could figure it out ourselves.

Many more hours later (in fact twice as long as I planned on the project taking) I found myself only halfway through, struggling to fit the pieces together. Sensing my frustration, my son snuck away to his phone and retrieved the online instructions. With the guide in hand, we swiftly completed the bookshelf. And I was able to teach my son a valuable lesson that a little guidance can make all the difference.

In the workplace, an often overlooked opportunity is to share and receive guidance on how individuals (especially leaders) operate, think, and engage within roles and with each other. Much like the instruction booklet accompanying a new bookshelf, the concept of a leadership "User Guide" can provide invaluable insights into your leadership style, preferences, and quirks as others may really appreciate knowing what works and what does not

Picture this: instead of leaving your team members to decipher or discover your leadership approach through trial and error, you provide them with a comprehensive guide that outlines your working preferences, communication style, and perhaps even your strengths and areas for growth. This document can serve as a roadmap for understanding you as a leader, fostering better collaboration, and ultimately enhancing team performance.

I worked with a CEO of a successful manufacturing company. He was able to hire great talent but often would fail to communicate his leadership style and expectations clearly to new hires. Feeling unsupported and unsure of their role, the new hires would often exit within six to twelve months, leaving the CEO stunned and regretful - and needing to start the costly recruiting process all over again. 

Recognizing the impact of his oversight, the CEO created and shared his leadership User Guide with his team, ensuring future employees felt valued and understood from day one. Communication improved, misunderstandings were minimized, and everyone felt empowered to bring their best selves to work -and stay at the company longer.

As you consider developing your own leadership User Guide, it should be a candid reflection of your authentic self. It should articulate your leadership philosophy, preferred modes of communication, and how you navigate challenges. Additionally, it should offer strategies for troubleshooting when you're not at your best, empowering your team to support you effectively during tough times.

Creating a leadership User Guide isn't just about clarifying expectations—it's about building meaningful connections, fostering trust, and empowering your team to thrive in your leadership.

Candor in how you prefer to work with others can make all the difference to your team and help you lead with authenticity and clarity. Your team will thank you for the "instructions" - and so might your family. 

Note:  I will ask MBA students in an advanced leadership class at Butler University to develop their personal User's Guide.  For a sample guide and suggestions as to how you might draft, and share, your own version, please contact me for more information.

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