Today’s Challenge question comes from a leader who’s having trouble letting go. It was positioned as, “How do I delegate, when I really want to do it myself?” I’ve written about delegation previously: Delegation Without Guilt and Is Your Leadership Career Stalled? Perhaps these posts will help. However, I sense a deeper question – I’m not sure it’s about delegation at all.
One of the definitions of leadership I like is getting work done through others. If you and I are unable or unwilling to let go, it’s impossible to activate the “through others” part of that definition. If that’s the case, we may be faced with the question, do I really want to lead?
So, if you’re struggling to let go, I think you may want to start by asking why. I’m guessing your response will fall into one of the following categories.
You really are gifted and called to do the work yourself. A craftsman is a craftsman. He or she may never want to be the leader of craftsmen. That’s great. If this is you, acknowledge your giftedness and work within your sweet spot. Don’t try to lead.
You feel others won’t do “it” as well as you do. This is almost always true in the beginning. That’s why one of our primary roles as a leader is to develop others. You really don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. You want to recruit, select, train and develop others to far surpass your level of competency. If others can’t do it as well as you can, teach them how.
You have confidence issues. Some leaders limit their effectiveness because they do not have confidence they can be successful at the next level. I’ve been told this is often a subconscious act of career sabotage. Therefore, a failure to delegate may be fear based. My suggestion, start small and give it a try – you may find you like it.
You want the recognition. You want to be the one who comes through and gets the job done. You’d rather be the fire fighter than the fire chief. You want to save the cat from the tree and the old lady from the burning building. You want to be the hero. If this is you, I’m not sure I can help you. Just temper your expectations regarding the breadth of your influence.
You are satisfied with your current level of influence and impact. It was John Maxwell who first introduced me to the phrase, “You’ve got to give up to go up.” If you don’t want to give up any of the tasks and responsibilities you now have, you’ll ultimately reach a dead end as a leader. We all have personal capacity limits. Delegation is one of the strategies for creating more capacity. If you won’t delegate, if you have to do it all yourself, there will come a day when you can do no more.
Delegation is like basic math – addition and subtraction. We must be able to do this well if we ever hope to learn multiplication and division. It is a key strategy to help each of us expand our capacity and develop others. Invest the needed time and energy to master this and watch your leadership impact grow exponentially!
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