Be smart by being less smart

By Martin Haworth
Martin Haworth

Over time most leaders become pretty capable in their environment. They have the experience to be able to resolve most problems. They are able to provide solutions and ideas in many of the situations they and their team come across.

This is a wonderful asset to have for anyone leading a team. It helps build confidence, maximise the credibility of the team as a whole and above all, deliver the results required. More, for the leader concerned, it makes them feel good about their capabilities as well as providing the focal point for team members to have on their side.

For many leaders, this is an ideal objective to have as a goal for their leadership. Where they have the gung-ho image of Mr Fix-it - no-one and nothing can prevent success.

An admirable asset for any team to have at their head.

And it's where many managers fail to make the step up to leadership. They become the Mr Fix-it to whom all their team members come when they have a problem. Their door is always open because they like to be needed and so that's where their people go when they have a challenge.

Mr Fix-it will always be there to 'fix it' for us.

The very best leaders acknowledge thet they have a wealth of experience and expertise. They know that they are more than able to 'do' stuff needed by their team to deliver - and yet they step back.

When you are very smart as a leader, you learn to NOT know all the answers. You realise that by challenging your people to find solutions for themselves, they will become even better at their role.

True, for these leaders - over time - their door gets knocked on less and less and it can become a lonely place without the ego-rubbing of Mr Fix-it times.

And their team becomes ever more capable; increasingly creative; much better at finding their own solutions; perhaps (dare we say it) finding better solutions than the leader might have ever done on their own.

The leader then has more time to focus on their role - perhaps of people developer; of visionary; of strategist. Those roles where the best leaders really come into their own.

So then, be a better leader - indeed, be a smarter leader - by leaving your own solutions on the table sometimes and coaching your people to draw from themsleves what they can really do.

Without depending on their super-smart leader to fix everything for them.