There is a mis-perception in the business world that leaders are to have all the answers; that their title or position is the cloak of an expert. There is an unwritten rule that in order to lead, you must be the expert in the room. I can’t count how many times I have been a part of discussions in a meeting where a team was presenting an issue to leadership that needed resolution, and the leader could not listen long enough to hear the full problem. They jumped at every chance to chime in with their answer to resolve the issue, never allowing the experts around them to have an opinion. Or, what is even worse, they question and even criticize the actions taken up to that point. When you anoint yourself, as a leader, the only problem solver and expert, you are setting yourself up for a major burnout.
Even back to my days in the Marine Corps, a fellow young officer was given a task for the first time that required a detailed adherence to process and procedure, and there was a timeline to get it done. Instead of seeking help from the senior enlisted Marines (who had done it for many years), he tried doing it all himself. Our commanding officer grew highly impatient with his progress and assigned a senior enlisted Marine to get it done, after my friend had already blown by his deadline. Our company’s operations chief, a master sergeant who had been in the Marines longer than I had been alive, later asked me if I thought I would have accomplished the task in the time line the captain had given. I answered with a yes. He followed up with asking how I would have accomplished it. My response to that question was, “I would have found someone who knew how to do it.” I might have been accountable for accomplishing the task, but I would find an expert to actually execute on accomplishing the task.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with having proficiency regarding the subjects you operate in, but if you desire to lead more than manage, you must recognize how to establish balance. Especially as a young, newly promoted leader, there is a desire to prove yourself.
Here are a few tips to help you with taking on a different perspective to help you spend more time leading and less time feeling like you have to be the expert.
In the end, you will look like an expert leader. That is how companies grow and flourish. Allow your people to be the experts. They will fight tooth and nail to not let you down when you demonstrate that you value them as experts in their respective fields and professions.
I wish you success in your growth as a leader.
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