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).