There’s a difference between being in charge and having things in your charge
Leadership is problematic for leaders. Of all the things that a person might have to do during their day, leading others can be one of the most challenging because of one idea; by definition, leadership is never a solo activity. Every leader is responsible for the outcome of other people’s actions—good or bad.
Every aspect of leadership is precariously balanced in this relationship. It is a matter of ownership, responsibility, trust, and outcomes. Most importantly, it involves other people.
This relationship creates an uncomfortable situation for many leaders; you’re not really in charge. Whether it be your team, situation, or outcomes, you’re not fully in control of what happens when and how. That’s entirely within the realm of the people that you lead.
Leadership is a tough pill to swallow because it means giving up much direct control
It is easy to take control of something because while being in control of the outcomes, you’re also directly responsible and accountable for the actions and decisions that result in the said outcome. Leadership is moving past this direct control and allowing others to hold these lower levels of responsibility and ownership while keeping them accountable and inspiring them towards action. That’s the hard part. Letting go and trusting others to be responsible.
We need teams to accomplish things that we cannot perform ourselves. We cannot concentrate on the minutia while at the same time, ensuring that our overall success comes out of our team’s actions. While we’re responsible, as leaders, we’re not really ‘in charge.’ There are too many variables for us to keep track of them all; we need our team to do so.
What this creates is a situation that is ‘in our charge.’ As leaders, we’re ultimately responsible for the outcomes and whether or not our teams are successful in their endeavors. Our ultimate barometer becomes mission success while taking care of our team’s needs.
Taking heed to that, and remembering that things are in our charge allows us to do that one very difficult thing, let go. We’re able to absolve ourselves of the smaller responsibilities that go into accomplishing our larger tasks. We can more effectively delegate because we acknowledge that we do not have direct control over the individual actions. Instead, we’re setting the conditions for them to take place, and for our teams to be successful in executing them.
Having something in our charge does not remove our responsibly, it redirects it. While we’re in charge of something, we tend to micromanage because we give ourselves the unconscious idea that we have to be responsible for every little detail. And wind up making sure that things are done to a T. Having thing in our change allows us to give our team more freedom of mobility and have them excel in their areas while contributing to the broader solution.
With this change of perspective, we can much more effectively delegate, trust, and oversee what our teams are doing. It doesn’t matter that we track every microsecond of our team’s performance. Instead, we give our teams the signal and then the support that they need to excel ta their part of the pie and the ownership to be proud of the results that they bring to the table.
Ed Brzychcy is former U.S. Army Infantry Staff-Sergeant with service across 3 combat deployments to Iraq. After his time in the military, he received his MBA from Babson College and now coaches organizational leadership and growth through his consultancy, Blue Cord Management.