Great Leaders Know When to Step Aside

Like this on Facebook

We talk about the need for leaders to be visible… commanding… present… courageous. We think of strong leaders as those who, by moderating their tone or telling a memorable tale, can make a crowd roll with laughter or fall silent in reflection.

A strong leader’s brand is associated with words like intelligence, inspiration, vision, and influence. It’s true – these qualities define how a leader shows up at work. But what do they mean – if anything – to how a leader actually impacts the work? How she encourages people toward desired outcomes? How he creates an environment where talent feels respected, valued, and fully utilized?

Great leaders are more than their persona. Their brand is a blend of tangible results, process improvement, creative solutions, and talent development. If they’re really good, they’ve been the “wind beneath the wings” of emerging leaders who will rise up after them, ready and able to conquer the world.

There are indeed times when leaders should step onto center stage. But other times, the most important step a leader can take is a step out of the way. Here are five common missteps (pun intended) leaders make when they’re trying too hard to “be the leader,” and a few thoughts about how to do things differently.

Misstep #1: You put your fingerprint on everything.
Do you find yourself re-creating other people’s work more often than not? Do you feel compelled to comment after everyone else so you can have the last word? If so, next time you’re tempted to add your perspective, consider whether it’s truly valuable. Are you making the work simpler? Faster? Clearer? More accurate? More compelling? If not, leave it alone. We compromise efforts by unnecessarily adding our two cents. Don’t risk devaluing others’ contributions. And don’t waste time.

Misstep #2: You need credit.
Do you feel annoyed when people talk about your idea and don’t mention you? Do you frequently pre-empt your team members by having meetings before the meeting, so you can be the one to set context? Consider this: While it’s important for your management to understand how you make a difference, credit as a goal unto itself is overrated. Some people seek credit, only to lose credibility. Be more concerned with whether your ideas are implemented and positively impact the company. Credit is so yesterday. Instead, strive for adoption.

Misstep #3: You try to do it all.
Are you overwhelmed at work? Are you busy all the time? Maybe it’s because you have too much responsibility, or maybe you’re subconsciously doing your job and other people’s jobs, too. We all have strengths and gaps. Lead with your strengths, and when you have capable partners, let them lead with theirs. Strong leaders recognize where others add value, and make space for true collaboration. Don’t try to do it all. (Especially when someone else might do it better. See number 1!)

Misstep #4: Everything has to go through you.
If your team can’t make a decision, or work is held up because you’ve not yet reviewed or approved it, it’s time to question how enabling you really are. You may not even be conscious of the tone you set, but sometimes a team’s hesitancy to make a call stems from your bad habit of reversing decisions. That, or they’re unclear about what you want. Do people know what you expect? It’s great to be a champion, a guide, and even a director when needed. But don’t be a bottleneck.

Misstep #5: You don’t trust your team to represent your work.
If you want to lead every conversation that takes place about your work, even on parts others supposedly own, you may need to step aside. Clarifying roles and responsibilities is helpful. Once you’ve done this, it’s important to stay in your lane. If a project is heading into a ditch, by all means, step in. Otherwise, clarify your goals and expectations, then trust people to get the job done. Don’t insert yourself just because you can, or because you feel the need to appear in control.

There are many articles written in celebration of loud and proud leadership, and I’m a firm believer in boldly claiming your leadership voice. But leading from the sidelines has its place. If we want to enable meaningful contributions from all and maximize our talent, it’s important we find that place…and learn to occupy it gracefully.

Tara Jaye Frank

Tara Jaye Frank is VP of Multicultural Strategy for Hallmark Cards, Inc. and the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose, written to help women from all cultural backgrounds chart a career course they can believe in and achieve. Follow her on Twitter @tarajfrank and Facebook at Facebook/tarajayefrank, or visit her at tarajayefrank.com.

Recommended

4 Ways to Quickly Build Influence at a New Job

Congratulations. You got the job! Now the real challenge begins: hitting the ground running. I once interviewed a C-level leader from the retail industry about the ...

Don’t be a professional pretzel! It’s better when you’re authentic at work

Have you ever been a professional pretzel? In my mid twenties, I was. Let me explain: I spent the early years of my professional life ...

Helping Women Become Leaders at eBay, LinkedIn, Amazon and More: My Conversation with Irish Tech New...

I'm not Irish, nor am I in tech. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to be interviewed for this feature in Irish Tech News. I chatted to ...

Ready to lead?

We'll show you how!
Get email updates from Be Leaderly.

Our mission is to provide the career strategies that help you lead, climb and thrive as a rising woman of influence.

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

15 Songs for Your Leadership Playlist

It was one of those conference moments I’ll never forget: Carly Fiorina had ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

6 Critical Missteps That Hurt Your Career Advancement

Let’s face it: it isn’t easy to break out and establish yourself as ...

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

A few years ago, around the time when I was launching this blog, ...

Nine Qualities of Female Leaders Who Get Beyond the Glass Ceiling

I’m frequently asked to speak about women in law and specifically the issue ...

5 Things Women Leaders Should Stop Doing. TODAY.

Over the last couple years, I’ve had a front row seat to career ...

8 Types of Courage for Aspiring Leaders

“The truth is that courage resides within you; you must simply decide to ...

4 Characteristics of Leaders Who Get Hired and Promoted

Imagine if you had the opportunity to sit down with a senior executive ...

Be Leaderly’s Selena Rezvani Discusses ‘Career Stretch’ & Readiness on SAP Radio
Be Leaderly’s Selena Rezvani Discusses ‘Career Stretch’ & Readiness on SAP Radio

‘Career Stretch’ & Readiness: Does It Differ From a Gender Lens? Stretch opportunities – those

How to Take Control of Your Reputation at Work
How to Take Control of Your Reputation at Work

The most important career capital you have isn’t your technical skills or academic pedigree. It’s

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Liza Lee Luk
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Liza Lee Luk

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what they’re doing to

Get Smart About the Wage Gap: 10 Great Reads for Equal Pay Day
Get Smart About the Wage Gap: 10 Great Reads for Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day 2018 falls on Tuesday, April 10. This date brings the gender wage

How to Score a Flexible Work Arrangement
How to Score a Flexible Work Arrangement

Do you ever fantasize about having more flexibility in your workday? And what about those

Not Every Problem Has an Easy Solution
Not Every Problem Has an Easy Solution

It’s time to retire the saying “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” Even though

Leaderly Quote: See a gap, fill a gap!
Leaderly Quote: See a gap, fill a gap!

You don’t need a title or a team to be a leader. You can lead

The Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month
The Top 5 Most-Read Articles This Month

Are you curious what other emerging leaders have been reading at Be Leaderly.com? This month’s popular

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Kelley B. Hall
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Kelley B. Hall

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what they’re doing to

Awkward or Awesome? What Your Hand Gestures Say When You’re Giving a Speech.
Awkward or Awesome? What Your Hand Gestures Say When You’re Giving a Speech.

It’s the day of the annual meeting and your team is present from five locations

Leaderly Quote: Self-promotion is self-preservation
Leaderly Quote: Self-promotion is self-preservation

With study after study showing that women are more apprehensive about discussing their general competence—let

You Won’t Make Friends With Everyone at Work. Earn Their Trust Instead.
You Won’t Make Friends With Everyone at Work. Earn Their Trust Instead.

“We started out as cube neighbors at the beginning of my corporate career,” says Joanne

How to Decide if an Employer’s Culture is Right for You
How to Decide if an Employer’s Culture is Right for You

It’s long been demonstrated that companies that create great work cultures see big benefits from

25 Inspirational Songs That You Can’t Celebrate International Women’s Day Without
25 Inspirational Songs That You Can’t Celebrate International Women’s Day Without

What better way to toast the awesome strength of International Women’s Day than with some

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Subscribe

captcha

PRIVACY

We will never share, rent, or sell your personal information or email address.
Copyright 2018, Be Leaderly