Do you find yourself taking on more responsibility and feeling more and more overwhelmed? I know how you feel! My default used to be to jump to action and just get it done. This is how I got somewhere in life in the first place—getting stuff done while others just talked about it or made excuses. But as things got more complicated, I experienced burnout. How were other leaders getting so much more done than me and not feeling the burnout I was? I used to think they must be smarter or more productive than me.
A successful leader to me is someone who gets lots of important things done (either societal or financial) with other people involved. The “other people involved” is the leadership part. That’s where I needed to improve. Things like setting a vision people can buy into; breaking down the vision into things that can get done in the short term; agreeing on clear roles and accountability with each person and team. These are the things that leaders do to leverage their own effort many times over. Leaders who do this kind of stuff get way more done than leaders who do the actual work themselves, only involving others when they just can’t meet the demands or don’t have the skills for the work.
Nowadays, I can see the folly in things like trying to be seen as the hardest working person on the team (as the leader); or setting people up for failure, thinking this is the best way for them to learn and grow; or not taking the time to understand the personal challenges key team members are facing. I have come to understand that when I am the leader, I need to step back and let others do the work—both the fun stuff and the not-so-fun stuff. My default needs to not be action, but rather strategy and communication. With this understanding, I am finding myself getting things done more along the lines of the leaders who used to intimidate me.
I am also finding that I am retaining more and more capable people to work with me and these stars are growing faster than ever. That old leadership adage of shooting to be the “dumbest in the room” is so true! I am getting dumber every day and I’m happy about it!
My second of five personal core values is around this idea. This is how I have written it out for myself:
I Inspire and lead: I understand that I can achieve my mission far more effectively by involving others, and I can increase my impact by inspiring and empowering others.
For short, I even say to myself sometimes: “Remember, Darryl, use your ILS (inspiring leadership system).”
For me, discovering and recording my five personal core values reminds me of what matters most to me. When getting a bad feeling in my gut about something, I can consult my core values and usually realize that I am not acting in accordance with what I know to be true about me. Having my core values accessible gives me a quick and easy way to test possible courses of action while also pushing me forward in more appropriate ways for me.
In the case of this value, when I feel myself getting pulled too deeply into the hands-on work and I get the gut feeling that something is wrong, I need to remind myself to back off a bit, figure out what needs doing, and find the right person to do it—doing it myself only as a last resort.
I am sharing this very personal value not to brag or to try to impress. I share it because I don’t think we talk enough about stuff like this. I wish we lived in a world where we were all clear on our core values, talked about them, and lived them.