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When Does a Leader Step Away and Let Team Members Take Over?
Leaders step back from what they have created by inspiring and empowering reports, thus crowning their leadership efforts. To step back means to create space for others to step in and take over. To step back also means to invite growth and scaling, refocusing on working on the business instead of working in it.
Leadership is a complex and wonderfully rewarding enterprise for those who understand its true meaning and purpose. Leaders build organizations, cultures, high-performing teams, and empower people. They act as mentors while promoting cultures focused on leadership coaching in their companies. They also know when they can step back from something they’ve created and let team members take over.
Sometimes it is best to step back.
Stepping Back Is Not About Giving Up or Letting Go
By stepping back, leaders do not get out of the way or hand off the reins to someone who can “take it from there.” Stepping back is not stepping away. It is a constructive move that frees up the leader to work on the business instead of in the business.
Small and medium enterprise leaders build their organizations from scratch. They tend to get overly involved in the minutiae of day-to-day activities. Such an attitude leads to hamstringing their organizations and capping their growth potential.
Leadership coaching professionals understand the difference between growth and scaling. Business coaching is the art of teaching small and medium enterprise leaders this difference and how to embrace scaling up if they don’t want their organizations to fail.
The Dangers of Not Stepping Back
What happens when leaders (understandably invested in what they see as the most significant achievements of their lives) refuse to step back? The damage they may cause to their organizations and themselves can be lasting and irreversible.
Planning for the Future
Leaders directly involved in the day-to-day activities of their companies have little to no time left to plan for the future. Without a robust plan taking growth and scaling into account, leaders cannot ensure the future prosperity of their companies. They remain in reactive mode, trying to keep up with the trends that others may shape.
An Issue of Trust
Many leaders do not trust their management teams. They want to retain as much control over as many aspects as possible. Such an approach disempowers managers, robbing them of motivation and rendering them ineffective. With ineffective managers, leaders have yet another excuse to retain control and avoid stepping back.
In my leadership coaching books and blog posts, I have always singled out communication as the most likely point of leadership failure. Business leaders addicted to control often dread showing vulnerability. When they fail to exercise this important element of intelligent leadership, they deny their teams transparency and the chance to engage in constructive or courageous dialogue.
Lacking a Growth Mindset
Some leaders are content with the status quo. They know what works and see no reason to tamper with something that’s already effective. The concept of continuous improvement may not be foreign to such leaders but implementing it in practice certainly is.
In the context of small and medium enterprises, management teams may lack the skills needed to grow their business.
How Can Leaders Step Back Without Stepping Away?
Intelligent leaders understand the need to create space for their managers and employees to step forth and take charge. They can build up this space developing and maintaining a meaningful two-way conversation with their reports.
Intelligent leaders plan for the future.
- Intelligent leaders engage in regular conversations about the future. They constantly explore possibilities and view their managers and employees as the entities who create the future.
- Leaders exhibit the behaviors they deem desirable and productive. They interact with their employees by making proposals, promoting consensus, and checking for understanding.
- Leaders offer continual support. Through their conversations, they coach managers and employees, planting the seeds of the behaviors they would like to see permeate the organization.
- Intelligent leaders understand they should focus not on the work that gets the job done but on the people who do the work.
Giving reports the space to step up and take over is the last step of the leadership effort. It is the crowning moment that allows leaders to refocus their leadership and become more effective.