I see a lot of chatter around this general idea:

“Leaders don’t command what they are unwilling to do themselves.”

I understand the sentiment, but when even slightly misinterpreted this mentality does more harm than good.

At its core this thought promotes the myth of the “well-rounded leader.” Problem is, nobody can do everything well.

This idea adheres to the same philosophy that demands executives spend two years in every department in the company on their climb “up.”

I promise you — talented people do not need to spend two years in an area of weakness to appreciate the value of it. What they do need is to get enough exposure to able to speak intelligently about it and communicate that area’s importance, and then they need to be moved as quickly as possible to their area of strength.

If these paths don’t exist, then we need to create more ladders.

The truth is, good leaders assign out a LOT of things they are unwilling to do themselves, because they know that another person can do certain things MUCH better than they can.

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Photo by Kelly Kerr.

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4 Comments

  • Leaders are paid to do one, at the most two things really well. Beyond that, they should be delegating. There are no supermen or superwomen out there, that’s a myth. A true measurement of your self-awareness is knowing what you do well and what you don’t do well. As you mature with your own self-leadership your focus becomes narrower, not wider.

    • Well said, Scott.

      I would also add that the best leaders know EXACTLY what those one or two things are they do well — that also truly create value — then they find ways to put them to work.

      First they identify, and then they carve out a path for themselves, slowly doing more of those things.

      Oprah is a great example of this — no one “gave” Oprah her job. She created it, slowly, laboriously, sculpting her niche path to where she gets to do things she does well (and that people pay her for) almost all the time.

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