Total Eclipse of Leadership

 In Leaders

How can I not write a post that has something to do with the eclipse of yesterday?  I got chills watching the total eclipse on TV — I can’t imagine seeing it in person.  But, how can I share something related to leadership and a total eclipse?   I thought about it all weekend and it finally came to me.

When I work with leaders, one of my favorite topics is delegation and how to use delegation to maximize the development of future leaders.  While good leaders achieve the goals that are set for them, the best leaders achieve their goals, and are also keenly focused on raising up other leaders.

In our “Delegate to Develop” module, we open with a discussion of what good leadership looks like.  Inevitably, some of these examples of leadership behavior are mentioned —  ‘filtering messages’ or ‘protecting my people from the pain’ or ‘taking the hits from above so my people can focus on their work’.  I am sure there are times when that is a good, smart practice.

But, here is the question:  What phase of the eclipse looks most like your habits?

  • Totality Eclipse:  You protect your people from all the swirl around and above them.  You take the heat, you don’t share the pressure, you totally protect your people.
  • Partial Eclipse:  You protect your people from the pressure only from the unrealistic expectations from senior leadership.  They can handle the swirl from below, but you filter the harsh messages.

Once we have a discussion about the merits of ‘protecting your people’, I pose the question that causes all of the light bulbs to go on.

Think about the time in your career when you learned the most, grew the most.  What happened that made the growth so memorable?  What was the experience like?

Inevitably, when we have personally grown the most or learned the most, the situation was TOUGH.  It was in response to impossible demands.  It was in an environment that was a bit harsh and no one was around to protect us.  We had to sink or swim…

So, why would we believe that protecting our people is the way to help them be successful in their work?  Why do we want to shelter our best performers from the pressure from above?  Why do we want to filter messages that might be difficult to handle?

Of course, there are times when a particular performer requires protection or a specific situation arises that is better left private.  But, when you are committed to developing high performers into new leaders, there is not a lot of room for protection.  Be there for them.  Actively participate in their thinking and planning processes.  Be supportive of their efforts.  But, be very careful you are not shielding them from some experience that could be the exact catalyst for growth they need.

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