Leaders do less

I have a habit of wanting to do more, take on more, conquer more, learn more, be more. I want to grow things, do things, and make a huge impact on this world. And, as a part of that desire, I’m learning that I must do less to do more. Leadership, at its core, is about building a team and empowering that team to not just conquer obstacles but to slay dragons.

The best teams are the ones that put out fires, make bold decisions that steer the organization forward and take ownership of the team and themselves. These teams do all of this with little input from their leaders because they don’t need it, they are motivated and passionate about the work, and the passion pays off.

The best leaders are the ones that do the least. No CEO should do something that someone else in the organization can do for two reasons. First, the team member can probably do it better. This is why I don’t design anymore because I was outclassed long ago by my team. On the off chance that your team member can’t do the task better, they need to learn so they can grow, and so the organization can grow. Second, for every second a leader is doing a task that someone else can do, they aren’t doing a task that only they can do.

This has been the hardest thing for me to learn in leadership, realizing that I have something to bring to the organization that only I can offer. And, within that, realizing that for every moment I’m not doing that thing I’m robbing the organization from reaching its full potential.

With this in mind, here is my “do list.” These are the things that only I can do to move my organizations I lead forward.

  • Think. To be honest, I have dedicated very little time to sitting and thinking. This must change for me to grow as a leader. I must schedule thinking time into my calendar. I must think more deeply about the organization than anyone else. In doing this, I will find opportunities I would otherwise miss.
  • Create and cast vision. I need a crystal clear vision of where I am steering the ship. Without that, we won’t grow fast or in the right places.
  • Create culture. For better or worse, the leadership of the organization sets its tone and culture. And the culture of an organization is one of it’s most valuable assets.
  • Business development. Sure, I could get a salesperson, and might one day. But, for this moment, my job as a leader is growth, and growth is best achieved when I’m out selling.
  • Create content. This supports all of the above items. It requires deeper thinking, helps to cast vision, create culture and build business.

And, what’s the use of a “do list” if you don’t have a “don’t list?” So here is my “don’t list.”

  • Client work. I should never do work that is directly billable. I have team members that can do it better, and it sucks me into working within the organization rather than on the organization. 
  • Details. Both of my organizations use Teamwork for project management. I used to be in Teamwork constantly, managing my tasks and the tasks of others. Now I never log into teamwork, nor should I. My teams are fantastic, and I have to trust them to manage the details while I’m managing the bigger picture. 
  • Tasks that can be assigned to someone else. As stated above, if someone else can do it, they should. Otherwise, I can step in to help. This is a fine line to walk as sometimes this can draw me into working within the organization, but I do the best I can.

For the leaders out there (and all of you are in some capacity), I encourage you to do less. Focus on the things that only you can do and let someone else do the other stuff. It’s the only way to grow. It’s the only way your team will ever learn to slay a dragon.

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