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Why good leaders have to leave the teams they build

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Leaders come in two broad flavors: 1) self confident ones, and 2) insecure ones. The self confident ones build teams, empower those teams, develop leadership within the team and then move on to their next challenge. The insecure ones micro-manage, insert themselves needlessly into processes, and cling to their authority roleĀ under the guise of being ‘indispensable.’

The best leaders have one overarching goal: to make themselves dispensable. They achieve this through a number of tactics:

  • Hire good people – better, smarter, faster than themselves wherever possible.
  • Performance manage the weaker performers, while putting the bulk of their energies into the higher achievers.
  • Create a culture of experimentation and innovation, where trial and error are celebrated.
  • Promote the achievements of everybody on the team, while taking minimal credit for themselves.
  • Support the team from the background, letting others take center stage.
  • Consciously develop team leadership by pushing responsibility downward, and developing everyone’s leadership ability, not just that of their clones.

It may seem counter-intuitive to try to make yourself dispensable, but that is exactly what the best leaders and team builders do. In my first book, Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn, I interviewed the captain of the Europa, a 400 ton tall ship, who had started his career in a one-person rowboat, and who explained his philosophy of becoming a leader:

Captain and crew of the tall ship Europa

Captain and crew of the tall ship Europa

I personally never ‘sought command.’ I started my career in a small boat, where you are the skipper by default. Over time, the boats got bigger, I got older, and my experience grew.

The lesson here is that leaders need to build and empower teams, and then move onto that ‘bigger boat,’ so they can do it all over again. The smart organizations are the ones who recognize the need for good team builders to keep moving and growing, leaving a legacy of successful teams and newly-developed leadersĀ in their wake.

Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

To learn more, or to explore having me speak to your group or team about leadership, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

One Response to “Why good leaders have to leave the teams they build”

  1. andrew lloyde Says:

    yes I love to call this edification. Promote everyone but yourself. When a workplace can get that happening there can be an incredible trust develop and intuition is allowed to exist. Nice article

    Thanks Andrew

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