2 August 2019
If you asked me 20 years ago what a great leader looked like, I would probably have said that they were the person that everyone looked up to, who drove a luxury car and who people were a little intimidated by.
After three decades or so in business, now I know better! One of the trickiest leadership lessons I have learned is that great leaders spend their time developing their own replacements.
This may sound a little odd, if you’re a great leader why would you want to replace yourself? But that’s the key! When you are able to delegate, to pass on responsibility, you’re able to step back each time the business grows. You’re able to look strategically at what the business needs. You don’t become bogged down in the everyday and you certainly don’t get bored!
On the other hand, bad leaders withhold their knowledge. They want to be irreplaceable. They believe that their power is in what they, and only they, know. But what happens when you need a break, when you’re ill or when you retire? You have left no foundations for the business to continue without you.
Creating great leaders
Ford Motor Company legend, Lee Iacocca, is quoted saying: “I hire people bigger than me and then get out of their way.”
This quote perfectly sums up what it takes to be a great leader. There is no room to be intimidated or threatened by people who may be better or more skilled than you; that’s the whole point. When you hire incredible people, you’re driven to try harder, to be better. And the business is all the better for it.
However, you also have to be comfortable passing the torch. The single most demotivating and frustrating thing we can do as leaders is delegate and then micro-manage. Coach your leaders, empower them and let them do their job. It is that simple! It’s certainly not easy, but it is that simple.
I have found that, in coaching my replacements, I am able to take more of a strategic, even mentorship role. Instead of having to make all of the decisions, my role is to guide people to be confident to make their own decisions, and build from there.
I’d love to know your thoughts – share your leadership lessons in the comments below.