Delegating - A True Leader

A great leader is often portrayed as doing something amazing all on their own. They defied the odds, overcame adversity, bested the competition, and seemingly all on their own. We laud these folks for their wit and praise them for their intellect. Books and magazine articles are written about them; movies are made in their honor. The story is much more compelling to tell it from just one side - the individual side. The feats of a single actor against the world is the stuff that legends were made of.

Philippe Petit walking between Twin Towers 1974

There seems to be some confusion as to what "leading from the front" really means. At least, there was some confusion for me. I thought that being a leader meant you had to do it all. To figure it out on your own and solve the challenges quickly. This is a recipe for overloading and disastrous failure.

Imagine you are Philippe Petit (in the above picture) walking a tight rope hundreds of feet up in the air over New York City. There is no safety harness; just you and 1" steel wire and a balancing pole. To successfully navigate the potential dangers that can befall you (namely falling) you must remain totally focused and in control. However, there are external circumstances that remain out of your control, like the wind.

Notice that Philippe (and you, as you are imagining yourself as Philippe) has a balancing pole. This is essential to his/your crossing. Without this pole, you are less stable and more susceptible to falling to your instant crushing death. Philippe had trained for this moment. He was skilled and able. He may have wanted to attempt this expedition without the balancing pole (I don't know... I didn't finish the 6 hr documentary), but he did not fall prey to his pride. He didn't let hubris get in the way.

A leader must be willing to distribute the weight and responsibility. It can be uncomfortable to see this carried so far from the center, but it is for his own benefit. This delegation of power is what keeps him safe and in check. He can quickly alter his approach as he has become one with his extensions. For the balance pole is merely an extension of his arms.

I was taught this lesson not too long ago. I was asked to coordinate a couple moves for some individuals needing help. I asked for some help, but not enough. A member of my crew called up some dedicated volunteers to assist us. This was a gentle reminder that leaders do not have to muscle through things all on their own. The best leaders allow other to pitch in and help. The best leaders let others grow and succeed.

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