Your Thumbprint And The Plans For Change

Intriguing real situation from my module on the Battle of Tippecanoe, leadership, and change. Tenskwatawa, one of the Indian leaders at Prophet’s Town, indeed, the man after whom the community is named, is pushed by three of the most aggressive of his fellow leaders to fight the American forces led by William Henry Harrison.

Tenskwatawa hesitated and wavered before agreeing to the use of battle–because his brother Tecumseh, now absent and more than 500 miles away, had warned him not to do anything to Harrison’s force until he could return. Still, after much hemming and hawing, Tenskwatawa yielded to his leader-colleagues Stone-eater, Winemac, and White Loon in moving forward with a battle.

Now comes the really fascinating part of this, in my view. Tenskwatawa did more than yield. He felt as if he needed to have his own piece of the plan, something that showed his personal input and involvement. Thus, he said that the plan would include his spiritual expertise: he would cast a spell over the Indian warriors and make them impervious to harm from bullets and bayonets, while he would cast a second spell over Harrison’s men and blind them in aiming their weapons. Of course, neither worked and Harrison’s force succeeded in fending off the attack on November 7, 1811.

The point is that a leader may think that it’s not enough to agree to a plan. He or she might think that they need to add their own personal twist to it. It’s an act of egoism to believe that followers must see a leader’s unique contribution in order to do the best possible job.

Can you see yourself as a leader in a situation where you don’t have to put your thumbprint on the action plan for change? Can your followers deal with that?