Racecars burn out if you run them continuously
The individual efforts we make on behalf of the organizations we’re supposed to be leading are not necessarily the same as actually leading them. Sometimes we get moved into a leadership position and think we need to become a pace setter—to work harder and faster. The reality is different. Working harder and faster may work well for a short time, but when we try to run a racecar continuously at high performance mode, it burns out.
This is what happens to a lot of entrepreneurs who try to build successful businesses. They get it off the ground, get it successful, and they are willing to work day and night. But people who are just employees can’t sustain that. It’s not a good quality of life. There comes a time in the life of our organizations when our workaholic ways may actually de-motivate others around us. Then it’s time to redefine our role as a leader.
Entrepreneurs who work without rest are confusing activity with leading. They’re not the same. They’re not the same at all.
Sustaining our role as successful leaders requires that we redefine leadership. If we rely entirely on our individual capabilities and effort, we’ll never develop those around us to move our organization to the next level.
Once you have moved beyond the level of being a direct contributor and start bringing others in, they may be doing the work you used to do. It’s a different job when you have to coordinate others. You have to allow them to grow to the level you attained. You have to step back and let them develop to their full potential.
Entrepreneurial leaders must get beyond technical skills
When we recruit recent graduates into our business, they usually come with a set of hard skills. As they move up the ladder, however, you have to make sure they develop leadership and management skills, skills that too often are not taught in school. They’re not taught about change and transition; they’re not taught how to motivate others. This must come from you, their leader.
At the Byrd School, we always advise our students to take psychology and sociology, because the biggest challenge to the organizations they will lead in the future is not going to require that they have a specific hard or technical skill. It’s going to require they be able to manage and lead other people. We want them to go into their first jobs with an understanding and appreciation for these “soft skills” that will move them from workers to future leaders.
You probably didn’t have the advantage of learning those soft skills when you were in school, so it’s important you develop them now, and a key step towards that is taking time to remove yourself occasionally from your daily activities and embrace the leader’s mindset.
To be an effective leader, sometimes you need to do less
As the scale of your organization increases, your job is to set the strategic vision. If you spend all your time engaging in tasks, when do you spend the time to vision? When do you spend the time to plan…to scan the environment…to make sure the organization stays on track?
You have to delegate things you used to do yourself and give others a chance to grow. If you don’t, your organization becomes dysfunctional and stagnant. If you’re doing the job you’ve hired others to do, you’re wasting the organization’s money and you’re holding your organization back.
As a leader, you must take time off, because you can’t keep on spinning without taking a break. You need time for your family and your friends. Some of your best creativity will come when you’re not directly engaged in activities. If you are leading, you need creative time to set the vision and get others excited about what you’re doing.
Spend less time doing and more time setting in motion the things that infuse energy into your organization—energy that makes things happen. Close the door and close your eyes sometimes. Give your mind a chance to relax. You need to do less, lead more, and watch your organization grow.
Adapted from a radio interview for River 95.3