As much as you may want to be at the center of everything going on at your company, at some point, it won’t be possible for you to be in every meeting, or realistic for you to weigh in on every decision. Yours is the ultimate authority, sure, but if you’re looking to sign off on every decision from every department or division you may as well say goodbye to time with your family and sleep, plus anything beyond the confines of your office (whether remote or not).
Not only is that an impractical way of conducting your business, but it’s also likely not the best one either. You may feel that you owe it to your company and your employees to continue to get your hands dirty by weighing in, but the truth is that both are best-served when you’re focused on the big-picture goals of the business. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t remain involved in the day-to-day, just that you should be able to step away when your time and energy is needed elsewhere. All that said, it’s paramount that you trust your team and mould them appropriately.
Exactly because we can’t manage every aspect ourselves, we need to help cultivate and develop leaders within our business. We can’t worry every time we step away from the office of what will happen—or not happen in our absence; that’s no way to live or work. Having trusted leaders within your company can allow you to feel comfortable handling your business elsewhere, and dare I say taking some needed time off on occasion.
Leadership is about more than a title and role, as you well know. Being labeled a leader doesn’t necessarily make you one, especially if those working under you don’t buy into your leadership. Nor does experience or qualification automatically translate to leadership ability; some of the smartest and most skilled people are also those who work better alone, or struggle within group dynamics. Finding leaders requires sussing out the right mix of characteristics from those within to find the people who are both capable and willing to take on that role for your team.
Developing leaders involves giving them opportunities to lead and providing opportunities to learn and develop. Most importantly, it means empowering them along the way to make more and more decisions on their own. It’s a delicate balancing act, perhaps made more so if you’re the type who struggles to relinquish control. Opportunities for growth come with the possibility of failure, and your concern is likely to avoid any failure anywhere in your business. But true growth and learning can’t occur if there is a perpetual safety net that negates risk and consequence. Just as we had to fail along the way to get where we are, so to do the next generation of leaders.
However, it shouldn’t strictly be a hands-off experience with trial and error the only teachers, however. You’d be the first to admit you don’t know everything, but you have learned quite a bit along the way, and you have plenty of wisdom that you can pass along to others—what to do and not to do, what your thinking has been on key decisions, and the difficulties that can come from trying to push a diverse group of people towards a common goal. There’s also the opportunity to bring people into meetings to see how the proverbial sausage is made, and hopefully gain a better understanding of the vagaries of upper management that may at times seem inscrutable to those normally excluded.
More than anything, you have to be sure that young leaders are prepared for the weight of responsibility that comes with a new role. There is no shortage of people who want the power of decision-making who haven’t given the first thought to the repercussions or consequences that might derive from those decisions. Not every decision will be right, and plenty will be unpopular; are they prepared disgruntled team members or a displeased boss? Leadership has its privileges, but also associated burdens as well.
Ceding some amount of authority and responsibility may be hard for founders, given that their company is their baby, and their investment in it greater than anyone else’s could ever be, but it’s a necessary step for any leader to find and groom those individuals they see as fit for similar roles. The work is hard, but it’s made easier with smart, capable people filling key roles and leading your workforce. #onwards.