“L” words for leaders: Leverage, learning, lifting, and letting go

Some conversations leave lasting impressions and this one did.

He is a rising star in one of the largest companies in the world. His work has caught the attention of those in the highest levels of the company. He’s technically skilled but not geekish. He’s an achiever with a humble demeanor. He asked this leading question.

“Would you rather have a manger who
understood your job or one who didn’t?”

I knew where he was going with the question and I knew the answer he expected. He wanted me to agree with his unspoken assumption that a manager who knew how to do a subordinate’s job would be better than one who didn’t.

Turning slowly toward him, I said, “A manager’s technical knowledge is not the main issue, their ability to bring out the best in others is.”

Is it an advantage for managers to know how to perform the jobs of their direct reports? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. In reality, everyone wants an environment that leverages their skills for high achievement. Additionally, managers who help others learn new skills motivate peak performers. However, meddling managers don’t lift they de-motivate employees.

Meddling managers don’t bring out the best in others they create cookie cutter employee’s who reflect the boss. They don’t leverage others to lift the organization. The result, the organization never rises above their technical ability. On the other hand, managers who teach others and then let go create high performance environments.

My rising star feels the tensions everyone feels when they work their way up the organizational chart, the tension between leveraging their technical knowledge and letting go so that others can achieve.


You’ve just read the “L” installment of the series “Alphabet for Leaders.”

Have you had a manager who knew how to do your job? Did they meddle or let go?

How can a technically skilled manager leverage their knowledge without de-motivating others?