• The 60 Second Leader
  • Seven Secrets of Inspired Leaders
  • The Little Book of Leadership
  • Leadership Hub for Corporates
  • Learning to Live with Huntington's Disease

Leaders are not essential: take a break

So, holiday/vacation time? Are you taking any? Did you/Will you take the Blackberry and check in by phone or get the office to call you if they really need you? Ah, me, how essential leaders think they are. Actually, as I learnt from the co-founder of Pret a Manger, Sinclair Beecham, great leaders make themselves inessential.

Sinclair said that he used to welcome the phone ringing with store managers and others bringing him problems to solve. It made him feel essential. As Pret grew, his phone didn’t stop ringing and he realized his idea of leadership doesn’t work. It’s not scalable. He changed his attitude. Instead of seeing himself as chief firefighter and problem-solver, he stepped back and gave people space, permission, indeed insisted, that they find their own solutions.

His phone didn’t ring so much. He felt less essential. At first, this was a bother. But, leadership isn’t about ego and how important you are. It’s about the high performance organization, and that comes from, paradoxically, making yourself inessential as a firefighter and problem-solver. A recent report says true leaders free up 50% or more of their time – they don’t schedule in half their week in their diary. They use that time to lead rather than firefighting. How do you do that? By creating more leaders, of course.

It may make you feel indispensable to be on call when on vacation. But, it actually shows you have a long way to go to be a great leader. If your deputies and the system aren’t coping and leading themselves in your absence, you aren’t doing your leadership job properly.

Nick McCormick, who runs the Be Good leadership blog, has a nice post on this in The Leadership Hub

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *