What would you say if I said that one’s “leadership load” should get lighter to carry over time in a specific role? Did that make you laugh? Or cry? Or perhaps respond with, “yeah right, Josh, my leadership load has never been heavier” or “what the heck is a leadership load?”
A leadership load is essentially the weight or pressure borne by a leader – both in terms of the daily operation AND through the course of seasons.
Here are the two main reasons why the load ought to be lighter or at least more manageable over time:
We’ve gotten to practice and learn from past decisions. Just like swimming or fishing or sewing, hours of practice do wonders in building muscles, stamina, and skills in a given area.
According to dictionary.com, to entrust is to put something in someone’s care or protection. Along these lines, one of the fundamental precepts of leadership is one’s ability to accomplish things with and through other people.
While experience and building a team that can be trusted takes time, this is the one-two punch of creating a more manageable leadership load over time.
Okay, but what if…
I’m not allowed to hire more people?
- Make a great case for why more talent will allow you and your team to bring increased value or better service.
- If the budget won’t allow, work with your manager to determine what’s most important and what needs to be moved to the back burner with the current team capacity. Wink wink, the hiring case is a whole lot more compelling when there’s important and valuable stuff that won’t get completed. This isn’t a time to be a martyr and hide the overload or back burner. Bring it to their attention!!
My people can’t be trusted?
- This one is usually more our responsibility than we think. From hiring to training to casting compelling vision and creating ownership, it’s our responsibility to select and build a team that can be entrusted.
- Tell them! I’m carrying too much and need some help. Is there anything that you see on my plate that you’d be able to take responsibility for? Boom – what an invitation!!!
- If the gap is too great, it’s time to have a conversation and communicate that if progress can’t be made in specific areas, it isn’t the right place for them. Provide opportunities to close the gap and if it can’t be done, set them free to pursue the next chapter of their career and open the door to start fresh with a new team member.
My boss will create more work until I’m buried?
- Similar to the first question, it’s going to require an honest conversation. Whether it’s sharing, you feel like you can never catch up or the moment you do, you’re asked to take on more. Most reasonable leaders will help create a new pathway in this regard, and if not, it’s worth considering whether or not they are a leader worth following.
- One last thing to consider is the expectation we create for ourselves to take on too much or to always be working. Sometimes there can be a tendency to blame the boss or the load that we have accumulated little by little over time. Responsibility is a great thing, yet if not managed carefully, we can find fulfillment in the quantity of work we produce versus the value we create and provide.
Our goal isn’t for a light load but rather a balanced load and sustainable burden SO THAT we can dream, lean into emergent crises, care for people, and cast vision around a better future!
Cheers to being leaders whose load is lightening as we invite others into more ownership and responsibility!