I saw a Tweet this morning from a college student who noted if you want to be successful in a class he is taking, you have to "spit out" the teacher's answers, not your own. I'm sure we all had those teachers - the ones who only wanted us to be able to memorize their thoughts rather than think for ourselves. If you were anything like me, you were disappointed by that teaching method. You wanted to be allowed to think freely (even if you were wrong), defend your analysis (even if it was a little muddy), and learn for yourself that your analysis was a little muddy and you might be wrong. There's power in being asked to think for yourself and having the freedom to be wrong. And there's even more power in being asked to think for yourself and having the freedom to be right. The truly tragic part of the Tweet is that approach doesn't always end in the classroom. As much as we talk about wanting our teams to be more than followers, as leaders we often stifle the reasoning and creativity of our employees. We encourage them to do it our way because we've been there before and it worked. We instruct them to forget an idea because it didn't work the last time we tried it. We stop short of listening to their reasoning about a new way to handle a situation and tell them to stick with the tried and true method.
Here's the problem with that approach as a leader - pretty soon, we have robots rather than colleagues. While I think having a robot who is capable of doing parts of my job would be cool, what I realize is that if I really only want carbon copies of me, either my employees are unnecessary or I am. And, I'm strong enough to admit that if I'm looking for people who parrot me, I am the one with the problem.
What do you want - colleagues or robots? Becky