Contrary to popular opinion, a successful business leader does not need to:
1. Be the smartest person in the room with all the right answers
2. Be involved in every matter and make every decision
3. Overwhelm his or her subordinates with work
Rather, the successful business leader needs to set a clear direction and establish goals, and should provide guidance and support to help the team follow that direction and realize those goals.
Since most of us are Type-A workaholics overstimulated with ideas, energy and passion, great leadership requires self-control. We need to restrain ourselves and our natural inclinations in order to better develop our team, and to keep it pointed in the right direction and focused on the critical goals.
One of the most important aspects of leadership is not what we do. Rather, it is what we do not do.
How should we practice this kind of restraint?
Leaders cannot be the ones who know all the answers and make all the decisions.
As leaders, we need to question and listen more. Even if we “know” the answer, it is important to have the team think that it is their idea. That gives them ownership of the decision and helps develop their critical thinking and business skills. Likewise, in our discussions, we need to restrain ourselves from always getting the last word. In his leadership book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith points out that the desire to know all the answers, to add our two cents in all discussions, is caused by our ego and our desire to tell the world how smart we are.
Leaders need to do less in order to keep the priority on the most important tasks.
Our priorities and strategies are set by the time and attention that we give to an issue. This may mean that, at times, we have nothing to do as we wait for the team to complete initiatives that are under way. In such cases, we cannot pester our team or find work to do just to prove that we are busy. Better we should go visit with a customer.
Leaders need to ignore small, unimportant issues.
To keep ourselves and our team focused on what is important, we need to avoid distracting them with “just this one time” favors that, however vexing or annoying, are not vital. Unless these issues are in line with our three to five priorities, we should ignore them. Pope John Paul XXIII offered similar advice: See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.
In summary, by exercising self-control and practicing leadership restraint, we will keep our teams focused, empowered and energized to deliver on our goals.