Intelligent leaders know that sometimes the best leadership is limited leadership. Under some circumstances, employees must lead themselves to feel empowered, engaged, and motivated. Leadership coaching can help leaders embrace limited leadership, turning it from a perceived liability into a source of opportunity.

Intelligent leaders know that sometimes they must step back and let reports handle situations. They are aware of when others require and need leadership and when they don’t. Endowed with above-average self-awareness and emotional intelligence, such leaders know when limited leadership is in order.

Leaders often rise to the top of the organizational hierarchy managing people in an area where they’re highly skilled and successful. They can show others the ropes, know what success looks like, and understand how they can help others achieve it. They emerge as organic leaders.

To grow, employees need autonomy. 

Seeing others struggle with work they can do better and faster is a test of patience for such leaders. If they step in, they can get the work done, show off their skills, and allow others to learn. The problem is that this course of action is seldom optimal. By jumping in, leaders rob employees of learning opportunities and motivation. They disempower them.

By sharpening their inner and outer-core competencies, leadership coaching aims to equip leaders with the ability to discern when they should exercise limited leadership.

When is Limited Leadership in Order? 

Sometimes, employees don’t need leadership guidance. Other times, the tasks employees perform don’t call for leadership. Other factors, like organizational peculiarities, also limit the value of leadership. When leadership doesn’t provide value, leaders should not foist it on their employees.

When Employees Need No Leadership 

Solid talent knows what it’s doing and doesn’t need expert guidance to handle tasks. Expertise breeds confidence and the willingness to take the initiative.

The leader’s job is to inspire and motivate employees. It may happen, however, that employees are motivated and inspired without needing additional efforts from their leaders to this end.

When Tasks Require Limited Leadership

The day-to-day operations of organizations involve many repetitive, unambiguous, and predictable tasks. Over time, employees master such tasks, requiring no further guidance.

Some tasks give employees direct feedback due to their structures and nature. In such cases, leaders needn’t provide additional feedback.

Sometimes, people just love to do certain tasks. When employees see the chance to perform some tasks as a reward and derive satisfaction from these tasks, efforts aimed at motivating them provide no additional value.

When Organizational Structures Limit the Value of Leadership

Cohesive and highly productive teams have their ways to motivate members, provide feedback, and handle leadership without outside interference.

Sometimes, the geographical distribution of team members defeats the value of leadership. Formal organizational structures and management approaches may have similar effects.

How Can Leaders Embrace Limited Leadership?

Executive coaching hands leaders the tools they need to solve problems, develop skills, and give employees opportunities to succeed. Leadership coaches can help leaders develop ideas for when limited leadership is in order.

  • Embracing the limitation. Someone skilled at accomplishing a task may have a difficult time watching someone struggle with it, but once leaders understand how employee empowerment, motivation, and engagement works, they’ll find it easier to embrace limited leadership.
  • Finding a different way. Intelligent leaders are creative and capable of overcoming limitations. Once they understand why forcing leadership under some circumstances is counterproductive, they can find other opportunities to exercise leadership in ways that make meaningful differences.
  • Relying on the skills of employees. Business coaching is about empowering people and allowing them to develop skills so they can be contributing members of teams and organizations. By relying on employees’ skills, leaders empower them and allow them to develop psychological ownership of what they do.
  • Letting go. Letting go is one of the more challenging aspects of intelligent leadership. Even leaders who delegate well and differentiate responsibilities find it difficult to rise above the everyday management of tasks, conflicts, and frustrations. Once it dawns on leaders that they must coach others to do the right things even when they’re not around, they take their leadership to higher levels.

Sometimes, you must let go.

Limited leadership may seem like a burden at first. With the help of a leadership coach, intelligent leaders will quickly learn to see it as an opportunity.


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