For any first-level leader — whether you’re leading an entry-level, customer-facing team or a team of tenured and experienced associates — the most significant challenge you will face is not with the people that report to you. Your most significant challenge you will face is with yourself. Specifically, your challenge is with your mindset and how you see your role as a leader.
At FranklinCovey we often see leaders struggle to adopt the fundamental paradigm of a leader. They lack the understanding that the very purpose of a leader is to deliver results through other people. Once you become a leader, your ability to deliver results yourself is secondary to the contribution you make through the members on your team.
While I’ve witnessed this time and again in my professional career as a consultant, I’ve also encountered it in my personal life. One of my dear friends is an executive at a tech company. She’s absolutely brilliant and provides enormous value to her organisation. She delivers results like mad — relentlessly cranking out invaluable work. Yet she continually struggles with leading other people to deliver results.
The truth is she works faster and more effectively than anyone on her team can. However, she’s also aware that if her leadership skills are limiting, then the overall contribution that she can make is limited as well. After all, she’s just one person no matter how capable she is.
If she wants to make a significant, ongoing contribution to the success of her organisation, the best use of her skills is to learn to hire, engage, motivate, and retain the best people she can. She can then skill them up to reach and unleash their potential. Ultimately the most meaningful contribution she can make is to be a great leader, which is why she continually prioritises developing her skills as a leader, not just as an executive.
Without acknowledging this shift, and without proactively adapting how you see your role and contribution, you risk perpetually struggling in your leadership role.
It’s easy to see that there are enormous implications for this paradigm shift at the overall organisational level as well. Imagine the difference between a hundred first-level leaders that have a mindset of delivering great results themselves, versus a hundred first-level leaders who fundamentally understand that their most significant contribution to the organisation is to engage the people that report to them to deliver results.
To begin making this paradigm shift yourself, spend a few minutes considering some of the following questions:
- What work do you keep for yourself, rather than delegating to others?
- Why do you keep those specific work items?
- Who on your team has the skill and the will to take on some of these tasks?
- How could you more effectively prioritise the leadership responsibilities that you have (such as coaching others)?
While shifting your mindset and your priorities can be difficult, remember that the highest and best contribution you can make is no longer the ability to deliver brilliant work yourself. Your role as a leader is to see the potential in your team and equip them with the skills and support they need to deliver impactful work themselves.
As Stephen R. Covey said, “Imagine the personal and organisational cost of failing to fully engage the passion, talent, and intelligence of the workforce. It is far greater than all taxes, interest charges, and labor costs put together.”