Leadership and How It Taught Me to Let Go

Leadership…what is it exactly?

Many say what a leader is not…not a dictating high-strung manager, not a person just sitting on a certain high step of the corporate ladder because they obtained a certain degree or figured out how to manipulate through the hierarchy of nonsense politics, and definitely not one who uses their status to control others from surpassing them along the way up, all because they are insecure of their own abilities.

There are numerous so-called leaders who steal others ideas and present them as their own.  Some will withhold important information so that no one else can become more experienced than them at a certain skill.  Others will sadly use dictatorship and controlling management styles to suppress those who report to them.  Unfortunately, this is the best way to gain disrespect, insubordination and high turnover.      

In my opinion as a two-year in officially paid leader, the true question is, what does leadership teach a leader?  It all truly comes down to one and only one essential lesson to learn in order to become a top-notch desired and successful leader.  Once you learn this very crucial yet hard-to-do skill for many of us, whether you are in a leadership or a non-leadership position, I believe you will find that people will actually start respecting, following after you and desiring your advice like you have always dreamed and aspired for.

What is this one great leadership skill…you ask? 

Ready?

It is to let go.

Really?

Yep…learn TO…LET…GO.

Seriously?  Let’s talk about this in some more detail to explain what I mean.

LET GO…of your power trip.

Leadership is not about power.  It is not about being more educated, experienced or knowledgeable than others.  Yes, you may have spent many more hours than them over the years, sacrificing your personal time to study for that degree or credentials.  You may have “paid your dues” learning to navigate the often harsh and ever-changing politics of the company and doing things you hated so as to please that certain manager who couldn’t care less about your success.

However, this does not make you more powerful than them.  I have learned that the more I develop a personal relationship with my employees, in other words don’t act like I am any different or better than them, the easier it is for us to work through any issues that may present themselves.  Develop an open-door policy (friendship) where you talk about personal and professional situations and how to learn from them.     

LET GO…of all the insecurities telling you that someone will take your job.

Ok…so hard truth…with or without your support…your employees may eventually gain the education, skills and knowledge to maneuver upwards through the often-complex organizational chart that you all are part of. But isn’t this what leadership is all about? Training, coaching and mentoring those who look up to you for advice and then watching them develop the confidence and skills to eventually soar without your constant assistance is what the best leader should hope to strive for. The now sparkles that I see in my employees’ eyes when they come up with an idea on their own or meet a goal that they set for themselves…now that makes all my efforts become worthwhile. Find their hidden talents and encourage them to develop. It is an amazing feeling of satisfaction.

LET GO…of your ability to know the best way to do everything.

Leadership does not mean that you know the best way to do everything.  Oftentimes that person who has been sitting in a certain position for years knows so much more than you can ever possibly know about the detail of the job.  I struggled for years with letting go of thinking my way is always the best, even while in non-leadership positions, but I have now realized that I do not know the best or most efficient way to do everything.  Give that person a certain duty or task, tell them to have their way at it and you will most often find that they end up coming to you for additional advice and suggestions.     

LET GO…of the perfection that you don’t think they have compared to yours.

To me, letting go of perfection was the most difficult one of all to deal with.  As a lifelong perfectionist and Type, A personality, I found that accepting what I perceived as imperfection on others part to be a true anxiety inducer at first.  Thoughts of how sloppy their work was would send me into a state of just doing it all myself.  Just doing it all myself ended up getting me nothing but extremely long work hours, in addition to employees who felt they were never good enough. 

Once I was thrown into a sink or swim leadership position, the only way for my survival was to let go of perfection.  As long as the way the other person was doing it wasn’t causing any major bottom line issues, then I actually realized that it was to my advantage to allow them to do it their way, even if it wasn’t the way that I would do it.  I learned that by letting go of the details that I could improve as a leader and also with my other goals of focusing on the bigger picture of the business.

Finally…

Want to be a leader?  Already a leader?  Whichever place you are at, letting go as a leader can be the most uplifting and rewarding thing you can ever do for yourself and others.  Allowing others to feel that their input, skills and ideas are valued can do nothing but good. 

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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