The One Thing All Great Leaders Know

A few weeks ago, an epic resignation letter was forwarded to me. While I don’t remember everything exactly, I do remember one thing clearly:

“I was told that wasn’t being paid to think. I was being paid to do what I was told to do.”

Say it with me — HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN IN 2018?

Aren’t we all enlightened by now? Isn’t it an accepted standard of the universe that everyone is a thinker and that we VALUE the employees who think? Don’t we all want those superheroes on our team who can step up, shine, and take care of any pitch that’s flung at them?

As it turns out, for many leaders, the solitary answer to those questions is simply, “No.” Those leaders want things done the way they want them done.

Why? Some people think it’s territory. Sometimes leaders don’t want their own relevance to be eclipsed by the folks who work for them. Others would contend that they worked really hard to get where they are, and people should automatically do things precisely the way that they did them to achieve great results.

But I think it’s quite simply this: what a new leader knows is only 49% of their value proposition to the business.

The very second that you become a leader, whether it’s managing the night crew at a local convenience store, leading a finance team for a massive company or having “comma CEO” follow your name, everything you ever did, learned, or intuitively knew about your chosen profession became of lesser importance.

That very moment, 51% of your job became developing and leading others, and what used to be 100% of your job – the stuff you were really good at in the first place – is now less than half.

It’s a tough bounce when you realize that what got you promoted isn’t what will keep you there.

When you get promoted to leading a team, the underlying theme is that you will do as great of a job helping others to achieve results as you did in getting results when you were in their job. That doesn’t sound too difficult, but deep down, that means that new leaders must understand that their mastery of a particular job means very little if they can’t lead and inspire others to exceed them.

The biggest issue with that, of course, is – you’re the only you here. So the only one you can expect to do things and make decisions exactly the way that you would IS you. Everyone else – that’s where leadership comes in.

Your content knowledge and get-things-done knowledge is so much more valuable when you can teach others what you know while simultaneously letting go of the expectation that they will do it exactly as you have. Think of it as a math problem: do you need to see their work? Sometimes. It can be helpful to know how someone arrived at their answer. But most of the time? No. And that’s how future leaders are created – when a great boss gives them a chance to figure things out for themselves.

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