To succeed as a leader of others or lead your own life effectively there is one core skill: applying judgment, which means balancing between options. For a leader the key judgment is the balance between applying command-style or coaching-style leadership. The "natural" tendency for most of us it to tell people not only what needs to be done (the outcome), but how to do it.
When we look at why this is so, it turns out it’s because we don’t immediately see the differences in how people think, feel and their habitual action patterns.
Most of us don’t realize or easily remember just how different every person is. At times we hear a story that reminds us and we’re struck by how "peculiar" people can be. Though the person may "look normal," which really means "you look the same as me," how they behave, what motivates them, how they approach finding solutions, their every day habits, beliefs and emotional reactions (which are also habits) are unique to each one alone. In one sense the differences are small. We all follow the same basic pattern: we want to do things our way, for instance, the hidden factors that define "our way" will be different from everyone else’s.
If a leader isn’t aware that everyone is quite different, they will certainly fail to see that asking or ordering another person to do what to them is "the logical thing" will create immediate resistance.
Every person wants to choose for themselves. This isn’t simply to be ornery, but because they’ve learned to do things their way is the best chance for success with it. Just imagine living anyone else’s life for a moment. It won’t seem likely to succeed to you because you can’t envision the dozens of pieces that might make it work. We’re too busy focusing on the ways we’ve found to make things hang together.
Even if a person ends up taking action that looks exactly like what you tried to command, the reasons, the timing and the feel of it will be different – sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes much more obviously.
The good news is that you don’t have to fully understand another person to guide them or help them. The one effective process for doing that is called "coaching." It works by concentrating on helping them focus through sensible questions to choose what they want to do and look at options and the obvious fact that they must begin to take action if they want anything to happen. In the process you find out what their motivations and intentions are. You can continue to help or ask other questions that open new ideas that they may choose.
People apply judgment when they see options. That includes us. When we see that people may not be the same or think the same way we do, we can begin to ask questions rather than give orders. Those questions can coach them toward action, and it will be action we also understand and have a greater chance of influencing than if we simply lay out orders and find them refused.