November 7, 2014


David Kirby: Lead by Empowering Others to Achieve

By: Greta Pisarczyk

David Kirby

At AFF’s “Lunch with a Leader” on October 23, Cato vice president and senior fellow David Kirby considered the definition of success and related practical leadership advice grounded in personal experience.

“When I first started managing people, I failed a lot. So I started to look for examples, and I ended up combining elements of the management philosophies of various entrepreneurs. I experimented and found what worked.”

Kirby delineated two key components of leadership: management style/philosophy and motivating others.

Forget everything you think you know about management. Effective managers are leaders in the sense that they motivate, guide, and empower a team.

Resist the urge to lecture, maintain strict control, and solve other people’s problems. Rather, empower others to achieve and get out of the way. Kirby explained:

“There are two types of people I never want to work with: the kind of people who want to tell others what to do, and the kind of people who want to be told what to do. As a team leader, you don’t want to be the first type and you don’t want your team to be the second type—you’ll be exhausted and your team will be completely dependent.”

Build a team of passionate people and develop a vision—shared beliefs and boundaries—that everyone owns. Shared beliefs will motivate your team. Boundaries will empower individuals to operate freely and confidently, and establish accountability. Then challenge your team to get things done by solving their own problems and answering their own questions (within those parameters).

Of course, there isn’t necessarily one perfect formula. As your career progresses, observe the management styles and motivational tactics of those around you for inspiration. Regardless of what philosophy you choose, management, and leadership, are learned over time.

Interested in learning more about AFF opportunities for students? Contact Greta Pisarczyk, director of student outreach for America’s Future Foundation, at