Teach People to Fish


As the saying goes “Give a person a fish and you feed him for a day, teach them to fish and you feed them for a life time.”

As leaders one of our primary tasks is to teach people to fish. We need to make them independent and self sufficient.

We need to show them the way, not look to lead them the way each and every time.

Leadership should be a temporary task: we lead them destination once, maybe twice; then they know the way; and then they no longer need us.

This is why coaching is such an important part of leadership.

As leaders it’s not our job to make our followers dependent upon us, they need to become independent of us.

Many people who get into leadership for the wrong reasons, because they want followers, may not take this path as they feel that it will weaken their position. But in reality it’s the opposite it makes us stronger leaders. It shows that we are there to help, rather than for self profit.

As leaders we should be continually looking to lead people to new destinations, to continually improve performance, to improve situations, not just repeating the same old journeys.

If we cannot free ourselves of just leading people to the same old destination then our leadership becomes restricted, and in fact we become weaker leaders.

This doesn’t mean that we just lead them once and then abandon them: no, we need to teach them, just as in the saying.

When we teach someone to fish, we don’t just show them once, we teach them until they can fish themselves, then we can leave them to fish alone.

At the last few companies I have worked at, in order to improve our project estimation, I have introduced Bid Estimation Templates, this ensure that all Bids are consistent and complete.  i.e. we taught people to fish.

We then reviewed the Bids that were produced, to ensure that people understood the process, and asked a few questions to check their understanding. i.e. we watched them fish to ensure that they had understood what had been taught and were there to provide support in case of questions or concerns.

Now at both those companies, people just use the templates without support, they have improved the quality of estimates, they understand the process better, they know what questions to ask of themselves, or of others. ie Now they know how to fish.

That is the role of a leader. Teach people to fish, and once they have mastered it, leave them to fish, and move on to teach them something else.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles