August 3, 2015

LOL: Let Others Lead


My friend and Everest Summiter/Keynote Speaker, Gary Guller, says that to be great you have to make those around you great. One of the surest ways to accomplish this is by letting others – in your personal and professional spheres – lead, and by following their lead with trust and respect.

Several notable and desirable things happen when we let others lead:

1. We surrender control and the stress that accompanies it.
It’s extremely lonely and burdensome to feel like we’re the only ones who can get a job done right. When we let others lead, we share the responsibility and free up our reserves and resources. When we don’t let others lead, we’re operating from a place of fear; fear of losing a client, fear of making mistakes, fear that things won’t turn out the way we want them to. But the more complex our tasks, projects, cases and deals get, the more we need to empower our partners, associates and colleagues to take leadership initiative. If we only place faith and trust in ourselves, we distance people and success from us, and we’re bound to fail eventually if we’re the only ones in charge. Yes, when we let others lead they may fail as well — but then we’re no longer working from a place of fear and exhaustion — we’re able to offer our help in a supporting role and end up looking like the hero and getting thanked!

2. We strengthen our people and projects.
Letting others lead allows people on our team to take ownership and pride in our shared work. Author and Analyst Daniel Pink notes that autonomy, mastery and purpose are the key motivators that drive individuals to high performance. Contrary to popular belief — salary and status, promotion and pay — are not the key ingredients for professional success and satisfaction. When we let others lead, we enable them to operate freely within a framework of responsibility, as Jim Collins phrases it in his book, Good to Great. Only with a self-directed sense of independence and trust that comes from supportive team members, can those around us leave their hand-held comfort zone and reach for their full potential in their capacity zone. By letting others lead, we go from feeling stressed to empowering our people, and projects, to be stretched to higher and stronger levels.

3. We build lasting and sustainable success.
Teams that rely on one or a few charismatic and capable leaders build an unhealthy dependency and fail when their leaders leave. The best succession plans are embedded in the organizational culture by cultivating several strong leaders. When we let others lead, we build healthy organizations that will sustain and surpass our own success. By bringing others into the leadership circle and including their approaches, talents and unique way of doing things, we ensure the longevity of our efforts and endeavors.

Lee Broekman is an author, professor, trainer and coach. Her company Organic Communication, brings interactive, never boring, always edifying presentations and programs — focused on communication, collaboration and innovation — to your firm or organization.

Find her latest book Successful (Happy) Lawyering on