Herds of buffalo are extremely loyal followers of one leader.
They do what the leader does, they go where the leader goes.
If the leader isn’t there, they stand around not knowing what to do.
Early settlers of the frontier quickly realized that if they took out the leader, the rest of the pack was easy prey.
Perhaps if they had a different leadership strategy, they wouldn’t be a threatened species!
Buffalo would do well to take a lesson from the geese.
They always fly in formation, but the leader at the front changes frequently. When the leader falls back, they change leaders, but they always maintain direction and speed. And they continually recharge their energy by dropping back in formation.
Question for reflection—Are you a buffalo leader or a goose?
Organizations that do not place a high premium on mentorship and leadership development will quickly wither and fade.
“There can be no success without succession.” –John Maxwell
The ultimate test of leadership is whether we produce more leaders that surpass and outlast us.
If I’m really honest, I don’t know if I want to raise up leaders who surpass me.
Most of me really loves it when the spotlight is on me. I want the glory. I don’t want to give power away. What little power I have, I feel I have worked really hard for!
But building real success is counterintuitive. The more power we give away, the more we grow our impact (done properly of course, I am not recommending that you delegate quickly to unqualified people you haven’t made significant investments in).
Great leaders take time to identify people that are multipliers. Other leaders that will cause explosive growth in the organization and carry it into the future.
Think of it like compound interest in your retirement account. Over the years, the investments in these future leaders pay enormous dividends for you (personal fulfillment), and for your organization.
They help ensure your organization doesn’t become extinct.
Here is a simple test: What happens when you are out of the office for one day or one week? Do things run smoothly in your absence or must you constantly be on call to field questions from your people?
Can things run without you?
If your answer is no, you may be clinging to too much power yourself.
It has been said that the greatest leaders make themselves obsolete.
The ego is powerful and our true motives often lie beneath our conscious awareness.
Do we relish the idea that we are irreplaceable? That the organization couldn’t live for even a week without us? Deep down, there is a part of me that loves this idea. It makes me feel valuable, important.
The great paradox is that by becoming a multiplier of leaders, you might make yourself obsolete while simultaneously making yourself extremely valuable to your organization.
So how do we work against our ego nature?
Two things can help—awareness and practice.
Take action now
First, do some reflection and soul searching. In what areas of your job are you indispensable?
Be honest about the psychological payoff of not giving power away. If you love to be the “helpful” one holding all the critical projects in your organization, this might be an addiction you need to take a hard look at.
Increase your self-awareness by looking at your potentially unsavory or selfish motives, even if you don’t believe you are doing this.
Next, identify some areas, tasks, or project you have been holding for a long time. Am I killing the future of a project by keeping it all to myself?
If you read my articles, you are probably a hyper-achiever and driven leader. As such, it can feel very unnatural to give tasks away. The irony is that keeping things to yourself may eventually put a ceiling on your success and impact.
Hard-charging leaders often face a kind of “mid-career crisis” in their leadership—and the only way to go to the next level is to become the kind of leader who focuses more on people development, and giving power away; one who practices giving success away to others; who takes the spotlight and intentionally lets others share center stage.
I know I need constant reminders of this.
This is your challenge this week.
Have a great weekend!
*If you have enjoyed Parker’s blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast that Parker co-hosts. We interview successful leaders and discuss research-based principles that help people win in the workplace without compromising the things that matter most—relationships, a life of purpose, and health.