“The best measure of leadership is whether you create more leaders.”—John Maxwell
The BIG Idea—You place a very low ceiling on your leadership potential if you don’t take the time to mentor and develop others.
Good leaders create loyal followers.
But great leaders create other leaders who outlast—and surpass them.
A few years ago, I came across one of the most profound leadership principles I’ve ever read by John Maxwell:
“My problem was that I had hit a wall. I was running a large organization that required much of my time. I had a family. I was writing books, leadership lessons, and sermons continually. My travel schedule was packed. I couldn’t squeeze another thing into my schedule with a shoehorn and a bucket of axle grease. That’s when I made a surprising discovery. The only places where my influence and productivity were growing were where I had identified potential leaders and developed them. My intention in developing leaders had been to help them improve themselves, but I found I was also benefiting. Spending time with them had been like investing money. They had grown, and at the same time I had reaped incredible dividends. That’s when I realized if I was going to make it to the next level, I was going to have to extend myself through others.” (John Maxwell, Mentoring 101)
I believe one of the most pressing problems facing modern leaders is busyness.
A few years ago, I got sucked into the busyness riptide, and the first thing I cut from my schedule was spending one-on-one time with people. That’s when I found this passage above and realized I had been making a huge mistake. I thought if I simply worked harder, I would be more effective. It turns out that simply putting my nose to the grindstone did not make me more effective. Not to mention—when I look back—spending time with my team has also been the most rewarding and fulfilling thing I have done in my leadership journey.
The irony is that the less time you spend with your team members, the less effective you are.
You trade frenzied activity for real impact.
When you extend your influence through others, your impact is exponential. When you fail to tap into the power of your team, you also run the risk of starting to believe the lie that you are more important than you really are—that no one else can do what you do.
In my experience, there is always someone else. You just don’t see them when you are eclipsing the spotlight.
I’ve now been in the workforce long enough to be succeeded by people more effective than I was—an important and humbling lesson.
The most effective leaders often develop a great second-in-command. Sometimes two or three of them.
That way, when they start to become overwhelmed, they have other growing leaders who they can quickly delegate projects to. This makes the leader appear much more effective, and also gives others the chance to grow. It takes much more time up front, but pays huge dividends of efficiency in the long run.
Google Project Oxygen: The Behaviors of the Most Effective Managers
In 2009, Google did a massive research study called Project Oxygen—to identify the behaviors of the most effective managers.
What did they find?
They identified 8 vital behaviors, but by far the most effective managers were emotionally stable people who made one-on-one time for their team members, asked good questions, and were interested in their lives. If you only do these 3 things, you will rise rapidly in leadership.
One great quote from Laszlo Bock (Director of People Operations at Google)—
“Especially in engineering, we always believed you needed to be as deep or deeper technical expert than the people that work for you….It turns out that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison to just making a connection and being accessible.”
Great wisdom here.
Turn information into action
- Make the time. You don’t need to set out to become a world-class mentor, just offer the time to people and be available. Bring some questions if you want to kick things off or let them set the agenda. In all likelihood, you will start developing better leaders on your team, people you can delegate projects to because you trust and understand their thinking when you get to know them. Experiment and witness how much more effective you become when you take the time to raise up other leaders. Not to mention—it’s the most rewarding thing you will do as a leader!
- Be interested in them personally as well as professionally. Ask challenging questions related to work , but also demonstrate interest in them as a human—not just a worker. Ask about their hobbies, their families, their cat, or their vacations. I am also frequently surprised (although I should not be) to hear that people are experiencing great pain or struggles in their lives. You won’t know this if you don’t take the time to be available and create that space. And I do not believe you can be effective as a leader if you don’t know the personal battles your people are fighting.
- Get a mentor for yourself. Getting a mentor for yourself does several things. First, your ego must take a back seat when you look to those who have gone before you. Second, it provides a great model for how you can spend time with your own team. Third, we often dramatically underestimate the need that others have to pass along their wisdom. Having a mentor and mentoring others provides the link for important generational wisdom to be passed on and not lost.
Have a great weekend!
- John Maxwell- Mentoring 101
- Google Oxygen Project (Google it!)