How to Let Go without Giving In
The problem is you won’t let go. You’re the victim of too much perseverance.
Organizations grow when new competent talent steps in.
7 reasons letting go challenges longstanding leaders:
- Identity: Who am I after I let go?
- Confidence: Will I perform as well?
- Ability: Can I learn new skills and behaviors?
- Uncertainty: How will new leaders perform? There are no guarantees new people will perform. In the short-term they may not do as well as long-termers.
- Place: Where’s my place in these new patterns?
- Meaning: Are new roles fulfilling and meaningful?
- Preparation: How has new talent been prepared for new leadership roles? Lack of leadership-development may be the number one reason leaders won’t step back so others can step forward.
Letting go isn’t optional – organizational success demands it. New talent produces new perspective, innovation, fresh vitality, and forward momentum.
You can’t step away even though you must let go. Bringing on new talent is never exemption from your leadership-responsibility.
8 ways to let go without giving in:
- Attend fewer meetings.
- Coach, mentor, and train new leaders. Privately prepare new leaders to lead the meetings you led. Guide the process, enhance their skills, and let them run.
- Talk less ask more.
- Talk values with new leaders before ventures. Values-alignment anchors safe, stable environments.
- Suggestions become imperatives. Your casual suggestions, even if you aren’t leading the meeting, become company policy. Make fewer suggestions. Explore the suggestions of others.
- Conduct after-action meetings with new leaders.
- Expect reports; create accountability.
- Celebrate progress.
Bonus: Jim Collins’ research suggests that promoting from within is more effective than bringing in outside talent.
How can leaders step back without stepping away?
What are the dangers when leaders let go?
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Very relevant post.
My experience indicates that the main challenges leaders face in letting go are:
(1) Peer Group embarassment. How does one explain one’s loss of power?
(2) Pushing down ” outdated experiential knowledge” through the heirarchy as a guarantee for sustenance. The leader tries to cling onto this knowledge even though it might have lost significant relevance.
Thanks for your comment Shakti,
You would hope that an organizations culture would celebrate the development and installation of new leaders but many don’t.
Also, the view that the people up front are the ones with the power is too narrow. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation.” Lincoln.
Nice post Dan. And there’s another thing.
Some managers never make leadership roles because they are comfortable in the ‘doing’ role. They aren’t ready to take on the real role which is more about interpersonal skills than taking the tasks on themselves.
Those capable of taking the step up to leadership are prepared to go out of their comfort zone and learn more, taking their career adventure further, rather than sitting back.
There comes a moment of decision when those who can, grasp the opportunity to be challenged in their capabilities and go forward.
Your point regarding doer vs. enabler is powerful and important. Individuals that move up the ladder successful transition from individual contributions to enabling others to contribute.
I get a bit uncomfortable when the leader/manager dynamic becomes a good/bad discussion. (not that you are suggesting that…I am just thinking about it) Every organization requires excellence in both areas.
Additionally, all organizations expect managers to lead and leaders to manage.
Thanks for joining the conversation.
Great post Dan – I hope your recovery is progressing rapidly.
A good word from you encourages me. I’m progressing…just never quite fast enough 🙂
Success to you,
Dan, I really don’t think that organizations appreciate this issue at all.
The whole development of leaders activity gets lost in the tiers of the organization.
When – rarely – an aspiring leader meets a mentor who actually understands the route to leadership, they can evolve and grow through their support and nurturing (that’s not a ‘soft’ option, development needs tough love!).
Otherwise, despite an aspiration to develop leaders, the environment simply isn’t present in most organizations.
This may sound cynical and a bit depressing, but it’s a bit of a fact…
I couldn’t agree more.
I wonder how many organizations intentionally develop new leaders and then show them the path to leadership…??
I’m glad you’re highlighting what I think is one of the most practical and important ideas in this post.
Best to you,
I’m so delighted that you raise this issue that managers need to lead and ledaers need to manage. So often we hear that ‘leadership’ is the holy grail.
I think there’s a level of snobbishness about ‘becoming a leader’, not just (or indeed even) by organizations, but so often by providers who possibly seek greater reward from developing leaders than managers.
As a former manager who, I believe had a few leadership skills, I reckon there is more value in developing some leadership skills in our managers than focusing on the headline leadership skills of ‘vision’, ‘strategic thinking’ etc., we so often hear of in leadership development.
Managers are vital to deliver outcomes and with some of those leadership skills can grow teams who can help with that.
It would be an interesting debate whether leaders could survive without managers or visa versa…probably more of a discussion than a simple comment on the current thread!
Glad to hear you are progressing. Your brain seems to be working OK 😉
Wonder if your list of 8 should be 9 Dan>
Might give Ask more it’s own category and Talk less it’s own space. Two distinct skills with amazing undertones and strengths.
Huge quote Dan: “You can’t step away even though you must let go.” Very powerful. Some leaders might say ‘aw just toss em in the deep end, sink or swim….that is a dysfunctional old school and negligent (to VMV) approach. Leaders need to ensure the skills sets are not just coached in, but engaged and in gear.
There is learning and there is competency.
Again, as with other growth processes, there is a pre-planning, pre-coaching dialogue (not monologue) with the mentor and mentee. Then there is the actual leading experience. After that the coaching continues…what worked well, what can you improve on, who else did well,etc.
I like to use this points in general. I have no aspiration to climb the corporate ladder. I hate the corp world. My dream is to be a full-time writer. I’m moving towards it steadily. But the points you talk about are great for just general living and negotiating in daily life as well.
And so often corporates or leaders within that don’t get this. Many people are perfectly happy in the role they have and that needs to be celebrated.
Good for you in having the absolute goals in your life. The steady steps you are talking will get you there with the strategy you have.
This couldn’t have been posted at a better time. Although my situation is a bit less “real world” than most, I’ve been an officer in one of my high school’s organizations for three years of my four years. (secretary now two-time president) As this year is coming to a close and I’m off to graduate, I’m finding it hard to let go of the things I’m so used to doing. I don’t want to leave what I’ve helped to build up behind. I don’t want to see myself without it. It’s been hard to find someone with the same dedication or drive as me. And then add to that my level of perfection and there’s no progress. I stay up late worrying about what will happen after I leave and such. It’s hard to let go of things. But I know I have to sometime. This semester is that time. They’ll survive without me, just as we did when I was just a member in the program. I just hope I can make it out without causing pain to myself or others. I just have to learn to let go. It truly is the hardest part. I thank you for your advice in this post. It’s truly going to help me along the next five months…and even beyond.
To be a good leader :
* We should think like a leader
* Talk like a leader
* Act like a leader..
And how people can do it?
* Is in their mind.. Keep in mind, and keep learning n learning..
How can leaders step back without stepping away?
* If the leaders no need to step back what should he/she?They should be doubt.. Yes or No there’s no IF..
What are the dangers when leaders let go?
* Find a new one better than before 😉
Very good perspective. I agree with you
good post aniwei..
This is a very good perspective. But as already mentioned… it is not a favorable concept for many companies. Although letting go is inevitable at some point.
I agree that this is not a favorable concept for many companies or individual leaders, especially older leaders. However, in today global economy it is necessary to bring forth newer inventive ideas to the forefront.
This issue reminds me of the trapeze analogy. Trapeze artists have to develop sincere trust (confidence and competence) in their ability to let go of one bar and be able to fly through the air unsupported, before they can grab on to the next bar. There’s absolutely no other way to accomplish their goal. Leaders likewise have to develop sufficient trust to let go of the bar they once held, be in a place of utter discomfort as they fly without support and grab onto a new bar ( role), and the new talent must do the same. Everyone needs to be aware and appreciate that things will not be identical, they will be different for everyone. Leadership is after all taking others to places you yourself have never been, its scary, its uncomfortable and its risky. The role of everyone is to understand how high needs for control can increase risk of transition failure, and to be ready to collaborate to mitigate the risks and be able to bounce back (off the safety net!) egos uninjured, ready to move forward and learn from mistakes. So your 8 steps are excellent risk mitigaters. They make up the intricate web of the safety net yet still require the team to learn the high level artistry skills of leading change.
Great analogy Helen, thanks! Eventually the leader needs to transition to being the flyer to the catcher. And regardless of all of the steps to mitigate risk, there still will be that edge of chaos when the flyer is ‘in the air’.
Great post. Thank you.
I think that Leaders who struggle to let go need some-one to paint them a couple of pictures that push and pull them.The push is the death of their dream project/ baby. The pull an evolved life creating new and better stuff.
Very good practical article; all you need is a good preparation, as a leader/manager, to succeed all these.
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Great write up. I feel that the main reason a leader can’t let go and still want to be involved is due to ego. They constantly want to be praised and acknowledged of their effort. Its good to appoint such person as a mentor but most of the time, they are still micro-managing the new projects. So are they a mentor now or a manager?
Nice point Nina – in that respect, they’re just like everyone else then!