I came across this quote on leadership some time ago that’s always stuck with me:
“Real leaders create people of independence, NOT dependence.”
It may seem simple on the surface. But it’s an important lesson for leaders.
We’ve all known leaders with teams that depended on them to function.
Teams that could barely keep things running while the leader is on vacation. Teams that depended on their leader’s guidance, and needed their direction to be successful.
At first glance, you might think this is how it should be. After all, a leader is an important role for a team! Shouldn’t they be the lynch pin to the team’s success?
In reality, a leader should strive to create independent people.
Why the Best Leaders Create People of Independence
The most important thing a leader can do is help their teams grow.
No matter how smart, hard-working, or effective you are as a leader, you’ll never be scalable.
You can’t be everywhere at once. You can’t be a leader to multiple teams. And you can’t help your team with every task.
That means the impact of your team and your organization will always be limited…until your people grow too.
That’s why creating people of independence is so valuable. If leaders create a team member that can thrive and excel on their own, their time is now free to solve other challenges. It’s a win-win!
…But Most Leaders Create Dependent Teams
Unfortunately, most leaders create dependent teams.
Many do so without even realizing it!
Some leaders assume their role is to always be involved. They’re always giving feedback, input, and guiding decisions.
This can be helpful…but unfortunately also creates habits where team members don’t know how to chart their own course without the leader present.
Even if you have the best intentions, it’s ultimately harmful to both the leader AND their team!
How Leaders Can Do Better
The best thing leaders can do here is to strive to give their teams as much independence as they can – without sacrificing results.
That means giving your team room to try new things – and potentially make mistakes!
This is how team members learn, grow, and build their confidence.
This is how team members learn how to make their own decisions.
Leaders also must understand that they can assign responsibilities and accountability, but they cannot assign ownership!
Real ownership is something people have to take for themselves.
As a leader, you can’t force your teams to take ownership over their work. You can only create conditions that make them more likely to take ownership.
So how do we create an atmosphere where people want to take ownership?
We can give them responsibilities that align with their strengths and interests. We can also give them room to make mistakes like we mentioned above. We can let them make their own decisions. And lastly, we can give them support, training, and coaching to encourage them to lead the way and solve their own challenges.
The end result is team members that take ownership over their work, are proud of their results, and are striving to do better.
And as a leader, you can spend less time micromanaging – and more time on strategic planning and other key tasks!
Create Teams That Could Succeed Without You
Look, I get it.
As a leader, it’s easy to let it go to your head.
You want to be the #1 reason the team thrives.
But at the end of the day, a truly great leader creates a team that can succeed without them. Even if you’re a huge advantage to the team, they should be able to deliver results on their own.
Because then they can grow into becoming your organization’s next best leaders…
And you can focus on helping others grow and develop into all-stars.
If your team can’t succeed without you…what will you do today to help them get there?