Lead by Getting Out of the Way

Managers and executives do one of two things: They either make it more difficult for people to do great work or they make it easier for people to do great work.

Often it’s really that simple. Sometimes people just need us as leaders to get the heck out of the way and let them do stuff. Let them create. Let them collaborate. Let them make decisions. Let them hold each other accountable. (Yes, I believe teammates should be the primary source of accountability on teams, not managers. But that’s for another post.)

When your team knows they have to get with you on something–a proposal, an idea, a question, an initiative–what do you think goes through their mind? Anticipation? Excitement? Fear? Dread?

Stop and ask yourself that question. And be vulnerable and honest with the answer.

People want to kick butt. You just need to let them.

3 thoughts on “Lead by Getting Out of the Way

  • Matt,

    Thank you for taking the time to write about such an important subject!

    The challenge about talking about this with business leaders is that some think that we’re talking about letting their people do whatever makes them happy. The key that they’re missing is that there’s two parts of leadership:
    1) is about setting a compelling Vision and a worthwhile Mission to follow
    2) is about helping people win by giving them the tools and knowledge they need to fulfill that Mission

    Unfortunately some business leaders find it hard to get out of the way because they attached who they are and their self-worth with their position. That’s why some viciously defend it and want to become indispensable. This behavior is the reason why companies find it so hard to grow!

    Again, the key here is to understand that who we are isn’t what we do. Great leaders know that their mission is only complete when the people they lead no longer need them. They successfully passed to them the lessons they learned (sometimes the hard way) and helped them become ALL they can be.

    Your article reminded me of what I consider to be the best definition of Leadership. This gem is from Ken Blanchard’s wife: Margie.

    Someone asked her: “What is Leadership?”

    She said: “Leadership is not about Love. Leadership IS Love! Is loving your mission. Is loving your people. Is loving your customers.

    And get this:

    Is loving yourself enough to get out of the way so others can become magnificent!”

  • I know how I have felt with certain leaders in the past. If the feeling is dread then many other behaviors spring out of that…risk avoidance, passive aggressive behaviors, politics…the list goes on. Being open to the truth you don’t want to hear is one of the critical aspects of being an effective leader. Great post Matt.

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