Lead the System

If you were driving on a dark country road, and you saw the sign, Bridge Out, What would you do? Would you continue on to your own peril, or would you change your direction? Many leaders are continuing in the same direction… to their peril. They continue to work in the system, managing everything and everyone, and all the while the road is falling out beneath them. The signs (unlike the one above) were in place a long time prior to the road’s collapse, yet through seasons of delay and a general lack of ideas on how to change their reality, the leader–and the organization–fall.

So, How do you stop managing and start leading? If we could answer this question in one simple paragraph, the sky would open, the songs of a thousand birds would fill the sky and rose petals would fall upon our path. The reality is that the answer to that question is as unique as your specific gifts and talents, and your ability to leverage them to act and think differently. In other words, you need to begin the downplay of using your gifts and talents and start leading others in their gifts and talents. I may not have all the answers, but I do have some starting points.

Provide Context

The first step is to be completely clear about what you or the organization requires. Framing the work within the broader context gives clarity to the recipient. They must be clear how the work contributes to the overall success of the organization.

Delegate Authority and Responsibility

Delegating responsibility to complete a task it relatively easy; “Get it done!” Delegating the authority to accomplish it can be another story. It requires confidence and trust in the individual. It also requires you to let go! Without the ability to make a decision that you will support, people will never be (or feel) empowered to complete the tasks that they are given. They will move forward in fear.

Support don’t Abdicate

Leading the system is just that, leading. It does not mean that you delegate and forget. Especially in the early stages of a project. People need your support and encouragement. They may need your skills. They may need you to push them when they feel they cannot and you know they can. If you abdicate your authority you will leave your people feeling alone and discouraged.

Only Delegate When Appropriate

Make sure that those to whom you delegate have the necessary skill to carry out the task. If not, they will be frustrated, you will be frustrated, and the work will not be completed.

Look at Team and Sub-team Structure.

Map it out. Keep all parts of the team communicating with each other. Check for consistency, effectiveness, and overlap. Make sure that all areas of overlap have clear owners in terms of responsibility. The ultimate goal is a streamlined team, not a one-on-one manager-to-direct report relationship.