Facing the Challenge of Restraint
Tell me the last time you didn’t step in to help. I know you love talking about everything you do. What you aren’t doing matters, too.
Restraint represents one of leadership’s great challenges. Success includes pulling back.
Stepping in frustrates talent. Fixing de-motivates. Solving insults.
Unrestrained leaders don’t help,
they get in the way.
Leadership restraint is:
- Stepping out so others can step in.
- Waiting while others step up.
- Investing in tomorrow.
- Expressing confidence in others.
Leadership restraint isn’t:
- Passive. Ask questions. Stop train wrecks.
- Inactive. Monitor progress.
- Spontaneous. Carefully plan restraint.
- Neglect. Healthy restraint energizes others. Unhealthy restraint frustrates. Neglect causes people to wonder if you care or if they matter.
Exercise restraint when:
- Problems are being addressed rather than ignored.
- Motivated employees press for more.
- Progress occurs.
- Failure can be overcome.
Ego hinders restraint; humility enables it. Restraint used well develops others, leverages potential, and enhances success.
Facebook readers are listing leadership’s top challenges.
When is restraint poor leadership?
How can leaders exercise restraint, effectively?
It’s often hard to exercise constraint because in doing so we feel like things will go out of control. One thing we can do minimize that feeling is to actually plan out what it will look like in our organization if we exercise restraint. 6 months from now, a year from now or 3 years from now what will it mean for me and those I lead?
Thanks Caleb. I appreciate your insights. I hear… get intentional about restraint by planning and imagining what might happen. Of course, some of us feel others can’t survive without out us… (present company excluded, of course. 🙂
Restraint is poor leadership when you fail to lead. When you fail to have a vision, don’t know what to do next or cannot provide adequate direction. This is not leadership it is a lack of courage. There is no shame in not knowing every answer. If you did, you wouldn’t need a team.
Effective leadership is knowing what you do best, and knowing what others do well, and letting them do it. Effective restraint in leadership is giving up a bit of your ego space, stop micromanaging and allow others to step up, step in, learn from their mistakes as well as your experience, being available and moving forward as a team.
The power of strength based leadership shines and guides in environments where restraint is exercised effectively. Thanks so much for that useful insight!
Why would leaders NOT want to show restraint and develop others? It eases your stress, pressure and workload. Talented leaders moving toward same vision are always more effective than great leader directing by himself/herself.
Perhaps it’s ego or maybe ignorance?
I find it’s particularly hard with kids. We want to see them succeed, and we see the familiar pot holes they may be headed toward… we often need restraint there too.
Ever hear a frustrated kid say “l’ll do it myself.” Of course there’s always the challenge of knowing when.
I agree that restraint enables. It enables by enabling options. Liberty disables. It is so because it does not enable to increase options. Liberty also does not compel for the need. So, need is the driver for restraint. And where we do not feel need, there is no enabling.
I think when leaders do not feel the need while facing restraint, it reflect poor leadership. And even if they feel the need, they do not act to overcome restraint to meet the need. Leaders can exercise restraint effectively by increasing the power of need. The power of need can be divided into many quadrants: power of self need, power of social need, power of positional need, power of influencing need etc. And this power determines leadership effectiveness and longevity. When leaders want power for self development, they seize to become effective. Whereas when they feel the need to influence others development, then they become effective and lasting.
Middle managers face the challenge of justifying wise strategic restraint to deadline-obsessed superiors. One possible approach is to recruit superiors to the rationale motivating the practice of restraint well in advance of deadlines. It is frustrating, even costly to political capital, to function as a buffer between production-minded superiors and talented but developing team members. But it is a noble and rewarding opportunity.
Effective leadership allows for learning, even if the learning is painful. It allows for trust that with experience people will grow and get stronger at making more effective decisions.
Restraint is about having a serious conversation with yourself. About sniffing the air, dipping your toes.
Restraint is an aspect of caution and carefulness.
But in our media driven times, where “nothing succeeds like excess”, this is a character driven quality.
Restraint is a nuance to productive leadership and decision making that needs to be better understood and appreciated.
Restraint (great word!) is a tool I have used a lot in volunteer organizations as well as parenting. For the sake of the organization run solely on volunteers and for the sake of the child who must develop into a full functioning, decision making adult, leaders have to step back and guide from a distance. Volunteers do not work for the same reasons as those being paid. I have found that as a leader, you can’t afford to be too rigid or with your hands in the mix too much. One the one hand, people will sometimes turn to a leader to fix anything and everything. They won’t make a single move or decision without guidance (or someone to blame). That’s not healthy for me or them, or for the life-expectancy of the organization as a volunteer base. On the other, if you don’t use restraint, you won’t have enough flexibility to maneuver what comes your way. There’s less control in many ways by the very nature of the organization. And by behaving in balance, people’s passion and love remain intact. Certainly, a volunteer based organization won’t survive an apathetic leader, or one who neglects, but it also won’t survive an overly rigid and controlling leadership either. Especially the smaller they are.
With kids, it’s always about empowering them with the tools and structure to safely make good decisions, or safely fail. The older they get, the more restraint you must use. If they are to become capable leaders of their own paths in life, this leader must be available, but step out of the way. And at some point, I change mantles completely to that of adviser or “consultant.”
Great post. It’s something that I planned and tried in a live production environment last week and shined through with amazing results. It has since sparked many conversations about the dynamic it created, the flaws it highlighted and the people who stepped up and moved forward.
Loved some of the powerful captions from this post because they resonate in who I am and what I do…“Success includes pulling back.”
I was a real fixer-upper, leaping in to rescue my staff when they had problems. Learning restraint was one of the hardest leadership skills for me to learn but has been one of the most effective. Now when my staff come to me with a problem the first thing I ask is “Tell me what you have been doing to solve this problem, what will you do next and how would you like me to support you.” We all become winners because we are all improving our skills.
In a tactical professional role, I thought myself to ‘ignore’ others mumblings unless they specifically asked for help, or I got an inkling that an issue had reached a point where my personal intervention was vital. In hindsight, I think this released others to find their way, building confidence as well as them learning for themselves. When I transitioned into coaching, this was a critical benefit to me, so I don’t fix others at all. Sure, my role is to help them along their path – and it is THEIR path.
When I work with leaders, my challenge is to help them let go more and see what happens. I have found that 100% of the time they are positively surprised at the benefits – to both sides – even when it is initially very challenging for them.
Now, how do I get my wife to do this when she asks me to do something…