Warning Executive Leaders – You Are Playing Too Small

Warning Executive Leaders – You Are Playing Too Small 150 150 Jennifer Ledet

YOU have very particular, superstar strengths in certain areas. It’s why you were hired, or why you started your business, or why you were promoted. However, unless you’re leveraging that unique skill set every single day, you are cheating your company, your team members, and frankly, yourself.

Marianne Williamson said, “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” Put in a slightly different context, I’d say, “A leader playing small doesn’t serve her organization.”

I’ll give you a couple examples of what Marianne and I are talking about.

Imagine an executive leader who sent out three (yes, three) emails warning team members not to leave coffee stains and King Cake crumbs in the break room. (If you don’t have King Cake crumbs in your break room, call me to learn about this delicacy). To me, this screams that he is avoiding dealing with much bigger issues. Why? Maybe because he feels like he’s in over his head. Maybe he is afraid to tackle the bigger issues, or most likely, he feels more comfortable dealing with these small-potatoes-situations.

Another prime example is my coaching client, the CEO, who came to me because she was a stressed out Sarah, working 16-hour days, a walking zombie, and her personal life was falling apart. When we delved into why she was doing this, we talked about the fact that she had a quite capable staff who was ready, eager, and able to do their jobs. Through our work together, she discovered that she was a card-carrying control freak, who feared her team members wouldn’t perform tasks to her standards and it would all be a reflection on her. So her employees were sipping daiquiris on the parade route while she worked herself into a coma.

Attention executive leaders: You need to play your part and handle the responsibilities for which you are uniquely suited – whatever your position or role might be – and let others on the team do what they are qualified to do.

If you’ve been playing small,

Ask yourself these questions to help you play big:

  • Could someone else easily take on this responsibility? Could I mentor a team member so he/she could grow into this responsibility? Become a master at delegating what is yours to do. Spending a little time on the front end to train a team member will be worth it if it relieves you of a less than high-level task going forward.
  • Is this the highest and best use of my time right now? As a leader your time is valuable and should not be frittered away on tasks that someone else can and should easily do.
  • Have I become the team problem solver? Instead of trying to always have the right answers, strive instead to ask good questions. This will spur team members to think critically about the situation and foster their own good problem-solving skills.
  • Am I being super tactical? Am I caught up in the weeds of my business, or am I being strategic, focused solely on the big picture? Truly successful leaders actually have what I like to call bi-focal vision. You must be able to focus on both the long-range vision for the organization, as well as on the steps that you’ll have to take to achieve that vision.
  • Do I step up and make the tough decisions that are mine to make, or do I shy away from those decisions and potentially lose the respect of my team? An effective leader gets the necessary input, but ultimately has the courage to make difficult and often unpopular decisions that are in the best interest of the organization as a whole.
  • Am I holding my cards close, preserving the status quo, or am I taking calculated risks that take me out of my comfort zone? On the other side of uncertainty lies opportunity. To truly be successful, a leader must get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • Do I often try to go it alone? Often a C-suite leader can get to a position or to a point in her career where she feels isolated and lonely. That’s when it’s a good idea to hire a leadership coach to work through and process the many issues that come up in your leadership role.

Playing small as a leader serves no one. You have a responsibility to step up, speak up, and reach up to expand fully into your role and give the best that you have to give to your organization.


What are you doing to ensure that you are playing BIG?

What steps can you take to leverage your unique set of skills, gifts, and talents so that you’re contributing at the highest level to your organization?