How to Unleash Your Leadership and Your LeadersNov 10, 2023
Welcome to Friday 411, issue #051. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll know what to do when responsibilities fail to match abilities.
Leadership becomes leashed when a disparity exists between current responsibilities and abilities. Disparity manifests in two ways:
- Current responsibilities exceed abilities.
- Abilities exceed current responsibilities.
In this article, we will focus on the second disparity.
Hear the word “leashed” and what’s the first image that pops in your mind?
We put dogs on leashes to train them, to domesticate them, to teach them submission, to confine them to boundaries.
For our first wedding anniversary, we adopted a four-pound rat terrier pup we named “Trinity” (after The Matrix character.) She was a sweet dog who loved to snuggle, but she could also be wild. If we let her loose in a field, she would sprint off like a bolt of lightning. These memories are of Trinity at her purest. The two of us stood witnessing a creature completely free, releasing all her natural abilities to their fullest potential. In those moments, we were allowing her to be everything she was designed to be. And Trinity, at her core, was a zoomer.
Unfortunately, our world is made up of more than wide open spaces where dogs can run unhindered. To get her safely home, we would pick up our little zoomer, buckle a collar around her neck, and clip on a leash. At first, when we would stand her back down in the grass, Trinity wouldn’t realize anything was different. She would try to take back off, only to be yanked backward with a pitiful yip. It took her many months to accept the leash’s restraints.
Ivy, a company’s bright, personable new hire, was also a zoomer. Though a human version of a zoomer runs more figurative circles than literal, her natural skills were undeniable. Not only was she competent in her industry knowledge, but Ivy also exhibited rare leadership talent. Despite her talent, Ivy hadn’t been with the company long enough to “earn” a managerial position. She was leashed to a role that underutilized her abilities.
Like most people who are leashed to responsibilities less than their abilities, Ivy soon grew bored and disengaged. It didn’t take long for another company to scoop her up for a leadership position where she could thrive.
Ivy’s second company knew something the first company didn’t know. Natural leadership talent is rare. In fact, Gallup’s research indicates that only one in ten people possess the unique combination of talents to manage others with excellence. With this knowledge, Ivy’s new company had abandoned the old-school, ineffective method of hiring managers. They looked beyond tenure and proven performance in a previous role and hired for the specific abilities necessary for leadership.
Are You a Leashed Leader?
Like Ivy, you might have leadership potential without a leadership position. If that’s your experience, then you’re a leashed leader. Here’s how to Unleash Your Leadership:
- Recognize that you are leashed.
- Wrestle with why you have allowed yourself to become leashed. The more you understand why you’re leashed, the more likely you are to not make the mistake again.
- Strive to get unleashed in your current company by doing the following:
A. Ask your supervisor for a meeting to discuss your potential contribution.
- Provide specific ways that you believe you could contribute more to the company.
- Ask your supervisor about the needs of the company and where they see you could contribute.
- Ask your supervisor for help finding opportunities that fulfill your desire to contribute more.
B. Interview leaders in the company to learn how they worked to align their abilities to their responsibilities.
C. Find a mentor. This is important because potential leaders who have more ability than responsibility still require teachability. People who present themselves as know-it-alls don’t move up. They become off-putting.
D. If none of these suggestions work, you may need to move to another company that won’t leash you.
Are You Leashing Your Potential Leaders?
On the other hand, you may be in a supervisor who is leashing the potential of the people around you. Here’s how to Unleash Your Leaders:
- Recognize that you are leashing your potential leaders.
- Wrestle with why you are leashing your potential leaders. Here are some common reasons why supervisors leash their potential leaders:
A. Supervisors aren’t paying attention to potential leader’s natural talents.
B. Supervisors are concerned that others who’ve been employed longer will not accept a newer or younger person’s leadership.
C. Supervisors are intimidated that their potential leader’s natural talents may exceed their own.
D. Supervisors are concerned the potential leader’s natural talents are too big for their company and limit them by exerting control and setting boundaries.
E. Supervisors don’t know how to manage and develop a high-talent leader.
3. Unleash your leaders.
A. Get to know your employees and their natural skill sets, looking for leadership characteristics.
B. Identify anyone whose abilities exceed their current responsibilities.
C. Start building your bench of leaders. As we’ve discussed before, there are four building blocks to develop more leaders and better leaders at your company:
- Define “leader” for your company.
- Describe the traits of a leader at your company.
- Enable leadership conversations.
- Create leadership pathways.
Are you a leashed leader or a supervisor who leashes your leaders? If you answered “yes,” to either of these questions, move through the steps to unleash your leadership or to unleash your leaders.
Want to unleash your leadership and help others do the same? Here are three ways we can help:
- Share this article with other leaders in your network.
- Contact us if your company wants help developing leaders.
- Get your copy of Gettin' (un)Busy, named by Forbes as "one of the books everyone on your team should read."