Here’s some leadership advice I’ve learned the hard way; don’t abdicate responsibility.
As a leader, the biggest burden you carry is responsibility. One of my personal definitions of leadership is actually taking responsibility for the outcome of a situation. When things get difficult, who is the person who picks themselves up, resolves to get a grip on the situation, and says ‘we’re going to sort this out’? That’s a mark of a true leader.
But because leadership can be such a huge burden, I’ve seen that one of the temptations many leaders face is to abdicate responsibility. Often this can even be hidden by a leader’s genuine desire (or faked persona) of wanting to delegate and empower other people. Such empowerment is definitely a good thing overall, but there are times when leaders can use empowerment as an excuse for not getting involved.
Three areas I’ve seen where it’s crucial that good leaders don’t abdicate responsibility, but instead step up to the plate, are:
The Big Ask: There are times when you need to share the vision and ask people whether they will respond and commit to where you’re going. This can be in one-to-one conversations, in small group settings, or when speaking from the platform to a large crowd. And although it’s generally good to have others involved in sharing the vision, at the crucial moments, and certainly when pitching it to the crucial audiences, it should be the person with overall responsibility who is describing where you’re going, and asking people to get on board.
The Difficult Conversations: Whenever you’re making forward progress there will always be people issues to deal with. They could be caused by innocent issues, such as a person who might be personally and negatively affected by a new direction the organisation is taking, or they could stem from a more malicious cause, like one team member being rude to another. Either way, there are difficult conversations that need to be had with individuals. Leaders shouldn’t abdicate responsibility for these, even though they can take up a huge amount of time. Few things give a leader a bad reputation than sending subordinates to break bad news or negotiate conflicts when they should be doing this themselves.
During a Crisis: When things are going wrong it’s tempting to duck down under cover and hide. But it’s precisely during crisis situations that leaders need to become most visible, to reassure team members and outsiders that someone has a grip on the situation, that there is a plan, and that the leader is taking responsibility for resolving the problem.
Don’t abdicate responsibility in any of these situations, but use them as opportunities to sharpen and demonstrate your leadership.
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.