13 Things You Don’t Need to Lead

Pressure that’s rooted in unrealistic expectation; frustrates, defeats, even crushes.

Self-imposed pressure drains joy, prevents progress, and invites leaders to become isolated and self-protective.


Leaders don’t need to:

  1. Stand up front.
  2. Pretend they know when they don’t.
  3. Talk first, most, and longest.
  4. Cling to authority.
  5. Protect their image.
  6. Feel important.
  7. Fix all the problems.
  8. Be right all the time.
  9. Make all the decisions.
  10. Answer all the questions.
  11. Lead all the meetings.
  12. Take the credit.
  13. Have position.

Pressure goes up and satisfaction goes down when leaders do what they don’t need to do.

Two conversations:

I woke up this morning with two conversations on my mind. One recent and one from the past.

Past – freedom to not know:

I asked Mark Miller, Vice President for Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, if he could go back in time, what advice would he give his younger self. He said, I’d tell my younger self that he doesn’t need to have all the answers.

Self-important leaders need to have all the answers.

The need to have answers makes you dread questions, reject exploration, and build walls. The pursuit of answers, on the other hand, makes others feel valuable. When you have all the answers, you tell others they’re not important.

“Let’s find an answer,” is better than, “I have the answer.”

Recent – freedom to make mistakes:

An experienced, high-level leader said, this is the first time in my career that my leader is OK with learning from mistakes. (paraphrase)

The need to learn and grow is natural and joyful. The need to be right is arrogant.

Talent languishes, progress stalls, and leaders posture in “need to be right” cultures. Sadly, “cover your butt” is normal for many organizations.

“What are you learning,” is better than, “What do you know.”

How can leaders stop doing what they don’t need to do?

What do leaders really need to do?