When Leading Means Taking a Step Back…

Leaders, we hear it (and say it) often… “Lead from the front!” And, it’s true… most of the time. While there is no doubt that leaders must be out in front leading the charge, there are times when good leadership means taking a step back.

Many leaders have a natural bent toward, well, leading. However, one of the tougher tasks that we as leaders can face is that of duplicating ourselves. Great leaders typically have proven track records in teambuilding, making wise decisions, and, as a result, getting things accomplished. However, as we progress over time in our leadership abilities, we tend to forget that we didn’t come out of the womb knowing how to get people to work together and how to make wise decisions. Those things are learned through experience, and more specifically, failure. We fail to be a good example of a team player, we fail to make good decisions and, as a result, we fail to get the best results.  Microsoft cofounder, Bill Gates, once said:

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

Gates clearly understands the concept of learning from your failures. Of course, the road to failure starts at the attempt at success. This is where the leaders can be stingy. We tend to like our leadership positions. We enjoy being good at something. We enjoy the fact that if we do and say the right things, people are often inspired. We enjoy success. We don’t want to share that feeling with others. Therefore, we often do not want to share the opportunities to attempt success either. The bottom line is that we are best friends with ‘Ole Mr. and Mrs. Pride.

As leaders, it is extremely important to be constantly identifying the next round of leaders within our organizations. How else will things be able to continue on after we are gone? You may be thinking, “I don’t really care what happens after I’m gone, so why should I care about developing new leaders?” Ah, and that would make you an extremely selfish leader. Which begs the question, is a selfish leader really leading anyone at all?

Unselfish leaders, ones who truly believe that leadership is a gift, will desire to pass on what they have learned to the ones coming after them. This requires a willingness to let others attempt, fail, and eventually, succeed at leadership. In short, you must take a step back and let others shine. When you do this, you must realize that when failure comes, you cannot be quick to blame the ones you have let make the attempt. And, you must also be quick to support, teach and correct those to whom you have given the opportunities. This is how leaders grow and develop their skills and decision-making capabilities. And, when success comes, be gracious in allowing others to have the spotlight. In taking this step back, you will be making progress toward becoming a better leader yourself.



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