It’s human nature for many of us to want to please those around us, particularly at work. To say yes to doing more, to consistently meet our goals, and to always exceed the expectations of those around and above us. But true leadership isn’t about people-pleasing. It’s about gathering the right people on your team whom you trust to do their jobs well and collectively meet the goals you set forth as their leader. The only way to do that is to select the right team for the job and delegate, delegate, delegate.
Now, let me be clear: That doesn’t mean delegating ALL of the work that falls under your purview, but it does mean delegating smartly.
As leaders, we fall short when we don’t do the mission-critical things only we can do because we’re still spending time on things we like to do, something we used to do, or things we can do instead. We tend to do these sorts of things when we have one or more of the following: the time, the inclination, or a lack of trust.
Let it Go
If you lead an organization and seriously believe you have sufficient time to do anything other than the things that your position alone requires you to do, let me disabuse you of that belief once and for all: you don’t. If you have the inclination to do something you used to do, it isn’t important whether that inclination is born of dissatisfaction with how that thing is now being done. All that matters is whether you have the fortitude to resist doing it, because your role as a leader demands you to.
In short, you need to learn to let it go.
Let go and trust your team. If you lack trust that someone you’ve hired to take direction from you and produce a given result can or will do so, as much as I hate to say it, you’re probably not a leader—because leadership is about trusting the people on your team to deliver once you’ve agreed on the goals and strategy. It’s not about holding onto control; it’s about letting it go: letting go of doing things yourself and developing the trust that other people will figure it out.
Let go of what you like to do or used to do. I’m not suggesting you abandon all that you love about your career as you evolve into a leadership role. What I am suggesting is that you avoid leaning into your comfort zone as an escape mechanism, justifying doing so with a simple, “Well, I like to do this.” Maybe we think about that next business trip and the seat we want on the plane—and the next thing we know, we’ve spent fifteen minutes we’ll never get back, booking the travel ourselves. Because getting that window seat was a lot more fun than lighting fires under the butts of those who have put off tackling that problem over in accounting (or marketing or engineering or sales or … ) for so long.
Delegation 101: 3 Priorities
Leading can often be fun, but sometimes it isn’t. The best leaders understand and accept this.
To be the best leader you can be, aim for consistently resisting the temptation to do anything other than:
- Recognizing the importance of your teams’ time and what they spend it on
- Resisting the urge to do something because you can
- Developing trust in your subordinates by giving them the space to make mistakes—and ultimately, to figure things out.
Only then you, as a leader, can rise to focus on the bigger picture – where does your team, functional area, or company as a whole need to go in the next six months, 12 months, two years? What can you do to lead your team towards consistent success while having some fun along the way? How can you collectively work hard to the benefit of your team or company’s key stakeholders? These are all questions you’ll have no time to even think about addressing if you cannot let go of the urge to spend time on what you used to do or liked to do before moving into a leadership role. Delegate smartly, and you’ll be leading your team from a position of trust; your team will respect you more for it, and you’ll be a stronger team as a result.