The answer is not what you think

We’ve all been there. There’s an obstacle at work and you think to yourself: “I really need to step up and perform.” And while that attitude may have served you well as a member of a team, when you become a leader, that same attitude can become a defeating prospect. As a leader, sometimes it’s more important to step back than step up.

While this may seem like a paradigm shifting without a clutch, it actually makes perfect sense when you examine it further. As we’ve discussed before with The John Maxwell Company’s Five Levels of Leadership, Level 3 leaders drive productivity, but they don’t accomplish this simply through their own productivity.

It’s critical that a team’s productivity goes up as a result of the team’s efforts, not because their leader is simply working harder. And this only happens if a leader is willing to step back and focus on their leadership skills, instead of trying to do everything on their own. If a leader “steps up,” it can mean that the team is unable to step up on their own and grow. Without the ability to produce on their own, the team can lose momentum, stagnate and underperform.

How to step back to let the team step up

To be an effective leader, you must take all the productivity skills you have worked so hard to build up to that point and work to imprint those skills on your team. By stepping back and focusing on the productivity of others, you will help them to thrive on their own. That’s being a true leader.

To make a real difference, this effort must be intentional. You should track progress to see if there’s real improvement due to your leadership efforts. Ask yourself: Is the team relying on you or are they working to solve their own challenges? And don’t be afraid to let your team fail. Learning from failure is how you can create the right environment for their ultimate victories. Almost every great success comes on the other side of a roadblock that needed to be overcome.

Remember the old axiom about teaching someone to fish. You may create limited positive results through your own efforts, but if others learn from you, those results can be distributed and multiplied exponentially. The key is being willing to step back in order to move ahead.

[Originally posted on]

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