Skip to content
All posts

Leadership Isn't About Flying Solo

Being a leader is something you can never do alone.

By its very nature, leadership requires others who would do the following. Leaders have followers. Better yet, leaders have people around them who they are working to instill leadership skills in, too. The best leaders are surrounded by other leaders.

That's one reason why it is perplexing to me when leaders compete with others around them. Leaders who try to do all or be all on their own doom themselves, and their organizations to fail.

A characteristic of true leadership is humility. Humility is a quality that enables an individual to admit they do not have all the answers. A person with humility welcomes and appreciates and learns from what others can contribute.

Recently, I've come across several gifted people who could be incredible leaders. What holds them back is their own desire to do more on their own so they can take credit for more of the results.

This is unfortunate. No person has capacity beyond multiple people. So why try to do the work of more than one person? Aside from the limited capacity, no one has all the right ideas, either. No one has diverse enough skill sets and talents to truly do it all. The hubris required to even attempt doing everything or controlling everything by oneself is ridiculous.

This unfortunate attempt is often seen when an individual is new to an organization and may feel the need to prove himself or herself. I was once told by a new training director that my services were no longer needed. I had helped design her position, had created an entire curriculum for the organization, and was prepared to work as an extension of her to help her reach her goals.

What she said to me was very telling. As she explained the reason for moving on in a solo fashion, she said "I feel like the mommy when the children love the nanny more."

In other words, her feelings of insecurity got the best of her. She has been reasonably successful in her endeavors. But it begs the question: What self-limiting choices has she made in an effort to control the work that is done? What more could have been accomplished if she were willing to accept others' help?

When a training program is established within any company, internal  trainers who come in often feel the need to put their own stamp on the curriculum. This is not leadership. It's an attempt to move into one's own comfort zone, regardless of what's right for the organization. By contrast, leaders are nimble and oriented to the needs of others. They do not feel the need to do what they have always done, and they can be flexible to keep the ship moving in the same direction.

Of course, this is not to say that change should never be made by someone new coming into a position like training. Instead, it is to say that trainers, new managers or senior managers should evaluate the situation and determine what is right for the people in the organization before making big moves. Additionally, we should all be sure to keep our egos in check.

I've done the same thing myself. In an effort to prove myself, elevate my skills, make my own way and create my own legacy, I've tried to do more than is reasonable for a single person to do. I've neglected the need to reach out for the help of others. I've convinced myself I can do it all in my own.

Looking back, my biggest mistakes and missed opportunities were created by me and my lack of inclusion.

For the past eight years, I've learned a lot about how to do this better. I've worked with a client who is motivated by the needs of the organization she serves. She brings in specialists, vendors, consultants and trainers who are best able to deliver what the company needs. She does this without letting her own ego interfere. As a result, she has built something very special that could never have been built in this same time period if she had been interested in a turf war.

Leadership means doing the right thing. The right thing for others is what guides leaders to make the decisions they do. More often than not, leaders do what's right by bringing in the people who are right to help them.

Leaders can be found at every level. Sign up for our free e-mail training to get a head start on improving your leadership skills. Then, check out our resources and programs for leaders, and connect with us on LinkedIn to participate in discussions about leadership.