Leadership Moment: Stepping Back to Allow New Leaders to Step Up

The latest Born Leader podcast focuses on the second life career Maestro Ulysses James of the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association, highlighting a challenge leaders often face – stepping back to allow others to step up.

Does this sound familiar? You’ve spent years learning every aspect of your profession so that you can now lead an organization – nonprofit, for profit, government agency . . . it doesn’t matter.  It’s been a long journey.  You are sure of your skills and knowledge, and that confidence is well earned.

But shifting into that leadership role requires giving up management and trusting the team.  Sometimes, that means letting the team we’ve trained grow and learn through the same experiences that benefited us.  Or, it may mean learning to share responsibilities with fellow volunteers on a board of directors.  It can also mean realizing that while we have the skill and talent to do it all, we don’t have the capacity – that’s time and energy – to be all things.

The evolution of an organization is an opportunity for a leader to grow and continue to learn the many facets of leadership.  So, the next time you tell a team member not to worry and that you’ll do this task, here are some things to consider:

Although it may be true that could do it better yourself, that will continue to be the case until you teach someone how to do it.

Maybe, you think it’s easier to do it yourself because teaching someone takes so much time. Is it really a better use of your time to continue performing this task for the foreseeable future rather than focusing on more strategic concerns?  Leverage that broad skillset and knowledgebase for your organization’s benefit.

Or, could it be that this is something you truly enjoy and you hate to give it up?  Remember that you won’t always have the time and your organization needs the security of greater capacity. Find balance by training a protégé and only occasionally dipping your toe back in the pool every now and again to fill your well.

Once you make that shift from management to leadership, like Ul, you’ll find that your experience is still valuable and you’ll learn to leverage it in increasingly impactful ways.

Learn more about how Ul James cultivates a culture of teamwork and respect at WMPA in Episode 6 of Born Leader wherever you listen to podcasts. Or let us know your thoughts via email or through our Facebook page, Born Leader LinkedIn group or on Twitter (@HypatianInst).

5 Entrepreneurial Leadership Lessons from the Raptor Playbook

photo credit: Universal Pictures

photo credit: Universal Pictures

Before you read further, be warned: spoiler alert. Turn away and go see Jurassic World first.

It's not easy being Blue . . . that is Blue the Raptor.  As the beta to human alpha Owen, she's negotiating some interesting dynamics.  Although she's the leader among the raptors, these humans have had the upper-hand since she was born, raising her in captivity.  While she respects her human alpha, he sure does look tasty. And now, she's all the sudden out of raptor prison and learning to lead without the usual constraints. Here are some lessons from the Raptor Playbook.

Keep It Real

Blue is unapologetically "raptor". She sticks to her core values and core nature, and everyone is clear on her lethal purpose. Entrepreneurs who articulate, communicate and follow their mission and core values will find opportunities better aligned with their goals. Its one reason business plans and annual strategies are so important. You're less likely to stray from your priorities and will stay focused on reaching measurable goals. Not everyone has the primal instincts and focus of a raptor.

Be a Team Player

In classic raptor style, Blue and her team work together to achieve goals and trust in one another's abilities. Whether pursuing a juicy pig or overtaking a careless human, the raptors make their plays together. A strong team is a business’ greatest asset. No one is an island. Even while taking the lead, an entrepreneur needs to coordinate and communicate with his team to realize success.

Be Nimble

Nothing says "raptor" like managing change and pursuing new opportunity at light-speed. Some humans find this out the hard way in Jurassic World. If you free raptors into the wild, don't be surprised if you become raptor kibble. Recognizing the new situation, Blue and the Raptor Pack switched gears in less than a minute. Opportunity can appear quickly and conditions can change with little warning. Entrepreneurial leadership requires seeing it, and having made preparations along the way, strategically leveraging resources to pursue it.

Get Back Up

Raptors, like entrepreneurs, are highly competitive, self-motivated and driven to succeed. There's nothing like being soundly knocked down to take the wind out of your sails and send you into the Trough of Sorrow. In grand Hollywood (and raptor) fashion, Blue never says die. Grit and perseverance are required to succeed. Set-backs are to be expected, but you've got to take courage, pick yourself up, and regroup. Lesson learned. Your next attempt will be more successful.

Collaborate on Big Jobs

Being beat down and thrown around like a rag doll by an overwhelming force can truly bring home the reality of your situation. When T-Rex enters the battle with Indominus Rex (no comment on the name), Blue partners mid-fight with T-Rex to take on a big job neither had the capacity to manage alone. Not only lethal but vicious, Indominus Rex required a teaming of strange bedfellows. In business, seek out partners who can complement your strengths and collaborate harmoniously to achieve success.

In short, take a page from the Raptor Playbook and kill it, metaphorically speaking.

And, yes, I kinda want a raptor for my birthday.

3 Business Innovation Strategies from the Zombie Apocalypse

After avoiding it in the theaters, World War Z now holds a place of honor in my Netflix cue. Look past the delightful, rampaging mayhem and puma fast zombies, and you have a strategy for business innovation.

What has me returning time and again is the premise of the nature of disease - of problems and challenges. In an early scene, the genius doctor (on whom ALL hopes are pinned!) speaks of piecing together the clues Mother Nature inadvertently reveals. That method of problem-solving leads our glorious hero (aka Brad Pitt) to follow the bread crumbs and help save the human race from extinction.

How did Mother Nature get away with so much? She hid the weakness beneath the most vicious characteristic of the disease - the zombies only attack the strong and avoid the sick. The characters had to get past what they thought they knew and re-examine the situation. Your stakes are likely not quite that high. However, therein lies a path to innovation for your business, too. Pitt's character drew on insights and information from other areas, went where the ideas and evidence led, and acted boldly and courageously.

Draw on Insights and Information from Outside Your Comfort Zone

What solution remains hidden from you because you're wrapped up in a conventional mindset? China's extreme measure of removing the entire population's teeth in a matter of days had left that nation intact in the film. Israel built a massive wall and those rabid zombies eventually climbed right on over. Needless to say, things weren't looking good when Pitt left Israel. Perhaps it's time to take a another look and consider something more extreme yourself. Deconstruct your business and piece it together from a fresh perspective. Include staff, advisers and partners to gain alternate points of view.

Go Where the Ideas and Evidence Lead You

Are you going to find the answer where you are now? As soon as Pitt gathered information and gained a solid, viable lead, he was ready to move. Answers in India? He's your man! Russia? Let's do it! Wales? Okay, less exciting, but bring it on! Innovation may be taking place down the street, in another state or a country thousands of mile away. Someone else's exact solution may not be your own, but it could be just the inspiration needed to find your path and take a leap forward.

Act Boldly and Courageously

Pitt's solution of infecting himself with a fatal disease to ward off the zombies was completely out of the box and extreme . . . and action hero brave. He'd followed Mother Nature's bread crumbs - seeing frenzied mobs of zombies literally flow around terminally ill humans. In following the clues around the globe, witnessed this in multiple countries. And, doing what entrepreneurs do best every day, he stepped out on faith and took a calculated risk.

Make Your Declaration

How can you create a space to deconstruct your business and declare war on stagnation. Is it a company-wide hackathon? Or joining a mastermind group? Or giving employees, and yourself, "study hall days" to pursue an idea that might just turn into your business' next innovation. Whatever the tactic, turn what you think you know on it's head.