As I was growing up, my dad and I would do things together as many fathers and sons do. Usually, if we were trying to accomplish something, I would not quite know how to do some aspect of the project. That is when dad would step in and say, “Here…let me help you with that.” He would then proceed to take over and I was done. In many ways it was just easier for him to take over and finish. I learned some of how things were done by watching, but not as deeply as I could have if he would have shown me and I could do it myself. Now, dad did not intend for me to feel shame or incompetence, he just wanted to get it done.
This affected me more than I realized. I notice how this still shows up for me in two ways:
When I begin something new to me, I feel like a dummy. I’m not sure where to begin, or I get part way in and I’m lost. I sometimes lack the tools to work through something I do not understand. Dad did it for me.
I find that I have done the same thing with my son. My brother and I jokingly say, “HERE” at times when it comes to showing someone how to do something. I have done the “HERE” many times with my son and have never given it back or talked him through what I am doing in order to train him.
I tell this entire story to make a point about one of the differences between good leaders and great leaders. Good leaders have some natural ability to lead. In many ways they use their abilities well. They have drive, determination, influence, connection, knowledge, initiative, etc. In fact, they are typically servant leaders. They leading by doing what they lead (lead by example). In fact, many times they became leaders due to their competence in the area they now lead. These are all good and are some building blocks of great leaders.
A stepping stone to great leadership is creating other leaders. And for me, that is where the “HERE” story gets in the way. Where I lead, I am competent in what I do. I lead by example and typically work side by side with those I am leading. However, I tend to practice, “Here…let me help you with that.” I may not say that. But what I will do is notice a task still left undone and instead of training someone to do it, I do it myself. It’s just “easier”. When I do this, two things happen:
I stifle the growth of those I am leading. I enable them to stand in the status quo. I may frustrate them. In the long run, their stifled growth does not help me or the group I am leading.
I exhaust myself. I actually become resentful that I am so needed because I created that world by doing it myself.
So, the challenge for me is to communicate what is “in my head” to those I am leading. My tendency is to see something that needs to be done. I will either do it myself. Or, I will let it go so that someone else will step up and do it. In both cases, I do not communicate and train and neither case works out well. What has to happen is my intentional communicating to those around me what needs to be done. I need to make agreements as to who will take on those tasks. I need to train and not take over where uncertainty exists.
Your next step in leadership may be to communicate what is in your head to those you lead. Empower those around you instead of taking the “HERE” approach like I have so many times.