Leadership Nudge® 334 – The Ladder is a Thermometer and a Thermostat

December 9, 2020by Sandy Wilmer0

Use the Ladder of Leadership to both set and measure the level of empowerment in your team. It is both a thermometer and a thermostat for the language of empowerment.


As many of you guys know, I was a math geek and an engineer. So there’s this geeky engineering-like substructure behind Intent-Based Leadership and the Ladder of Leadership in particular. We call it the thermometer and the thermostat for empowerment. Here’s why. A thermometer measures the temperature. So generally speaking, empowerment feels like a fuzzy notion, but it’s really not. We can measure it by listening to the words that people say on our team. For example, if they’re saying, “Hey, tell me what to do,” then I know where they are, versus “here’s what I see.” 

“Here’s what I think.”  

“Here’s what I’d like to do.”  

“Here’s what I intend to do.”  

And so on.  

So it’s no longer fuzzy. It’s measurable, and it’s a thermostat. The thermostat is what you use to control it and set the temperature. We can change the level of empowerment simply by inviting someone to a different level on the Ladder. If they’re at, ‘here’s what I see’ and you ask them, “Well, what do you think’s going on?” You’re just naturally inviting them to the next level up, and empowerment. It serves both to measure empowerment and to control or effect the level of empowerment on the team.  

As you’re using the ladder, you don’t necessarily have to have all these steps in memory. But just think about it. I’m just using this, I’m just dialing up the empowerment by inviting my team to higher levels of thinking, higher levels of engagement, higher levels of vulnerability. 

I’m David Marquet. That’s your Leadership Nudge. 

Sandy Wilmer

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