In a coaching session recently a leader complained that he just didn’t have time to do all this leadership stuff I was suggesting. He was too busy working. Do you see the irony here?
One of the main reasons we were selected as leaders was our ability to do great work. But the paradox of leadership is that we can’t continue that pattern of success in the role of leader. It’s much more complicated than working hard ourselves.
Human beings naturally default to our base tendencies in stressful situations and for the leader the natural tendency when encountering a difficult situation is to ‘roll up our sleeves’ and get to work. The situation at hand may benefit from this approach but stop for a second and take a look at how you may be effecting your overall goals as a leader.
Beyond getting the work done, what purpose is served by you doing the labor instead of your team? Are you teaching the proper technique? Are you showing the team you’re not above the fray? Is a lesson involved?
If not, ‘roll down your sleeves’ and lead rather than do.
This isn’t easy. Many times it means deadlines will be missed. Commitments may be broken. The work may not be completed as well as you would do it. It may take multiple back-and-forth sessions to get it done. This all takes time and you might argue that it would save time to just do it yourself.
Roll down your sleeves and lead rather than do.
Those are the negatives but what about the positives?
- The message is sent that failure is OK. This is critical to an innovative spirit. Leading innovation means your whole organization innovates, not just the leader. Failure is critical to innovation success.
- Trust develops. Do you remember the feeling when an assignment was entrusted to you for the first time? How motivating was that for you?
- Problem solving and responsibility is learned. The back and forth teaches at every step. Reinforcing responsibility replicates you. Your team accomplishes so much more than you can individually.
- Shared success. It is so much easier to share success with the team when they did it rather than you.
All that sounds like leadership to me. What do you think? We can go much further into delegation as a development tool, etc. but this basic principle is a foundation to build upon.