Successful Leaders Don’t Need to be Present by Stephan De Villiers

If you’ve not read Stephan’s writings then welcome. For 21st century leaders, the over dependence on managers to make decisions is a bottleneck to progress. Though it may keep change resistant managers happy, it leaves many dissatisfied. Stephan offers up some insights to move away from the staleness inherent in inflated importance. This is part one of two.

If Your People are not Thinking, You are Failing as a Leader

Meet Gary.  He is the leader of a small organization and a very “hands on” guy.  He makes a point of knowing about every single detail in the organization and gets involved in the detail 90% of the time.  He further prides himself in his problem solving abilities. He is the “go to guy” and likes the fact that people look up to him when they have a problem. He gets involved in all the decision making processes in the organization.  In his mind he plays a vital role in solving problems and making important decisions.  Gary is convinced he is a very effective leader and his contribution plays an important role in the success of the organization.

Making People Dependant

The sad truth is Gary is not a very effective leader.  The way he leads people creates a culture of dependence on him as leader in the organization.  This results in people not thinking anymore, becoming lazy to solving problems and losing confidence to make decisions on their own.  Through his behaviour Gary stifles the creative genius of the people he leads.  By not affording them the opportunity to think and come up with solutions to problems and challenges, he has made them dependant.

Gary is not only doing the organization a disservice, but himself as well.  By focussing so much on solving other people’s problems, he neglects development areas in his personal leadership, such as coaching and setting direction.  He spends most of his time involved in problem solving mode, stealing time he could have spent more productively.

Successful Leaders Don’t Need to be Present

Successful leadership means your followers don’t need you around for them to be productive.  They can operate without you.  Once you set the direction, they move on their own accord towards the goal.  This means as leader you can spend your time on motivating, coaching and course correcting.  A successful leader allows people to make their own decisions.  It means they must be able to face problems and come up with solutions, without involving the leader in the process of getting to the solution. To achieve this, people in the organization must think for themselves.

Tomorrow we post part two.

Photo courtesy of Linsen Schuss

Stephan De Villiers is Senior Manager at a Human Capital Management Company. His experience spans across various business disciplines, including Training, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Finance. He is part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network, South African Chapter, where he is a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. He has a passion for people & leadership development and has been blogging for close to two years. He publishes The Leadership Connexion blog since August 2011. He regularly writes on Personal, Professional and Social Leadership and believes that the highest form of living is using what you have been blessed with, to add value to other people’s lives.

  • This is my leadership style. I don’t need to be present.

    Now, I ensure to:

    * Recruit the best players
    * Let them know the end game
    * Equip them to succeed
    * Check in along the way
    * Encourage and acknowledge along the way

    There’s a few around me who think I’m not doing my job. These are the same people that need to be involved in every detail. Similar to the leader you described above.

    I think the best leaders realize they don’t have all the answers. They empower their people to do the job “their way.”

  • Great post. I agree that the true test of leadership is not what happens when you’re there, but what happens when you’re NOT there. But going too far in the other direction is not good either because you can either get disconnected or become a “seagull manager.” (A seagull is usually off flying around somewhere, but every once in a while, swoops in unexpectedly, makes a lot of noise, dumps a load, and then flies off again.)

  • LOL. Certainly a lot of fuss and mess with a seagull manager. Convenient that they’re not around to see the mess they’ve made.

    Putting aside the apropos seagull analogy, another important reality surfaces for the leader who helps build interdependent, self-run teams: what to do with the time freed up? It’s in that freed up time that a gift is found: time to work on strategic initiatives, time for coaching, mentoring, talent-management, self-development, and so on.

    It’s only available, however, to the manager willing to stick around through the crap and the good. Great message, Stephan.

  • Great post. This is very consistent with what Seth Godin describes as being a linchpin. We need to be empowering our people to create and invent. That’s the way to come up with products and services that are truly remarkable.

    We hire people because of their smarts and what they could add to the organization, and then we don’t allow them to really contribute. Those closest to the work really understand it the best. We should be allowing them to make decisions about the work, take ownership of what they’re doing and really make a difference in our organizations.

    Otherwise, our organizations and our products run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

    Thanks again for the great post.

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