Updated: May 19
Much of my work is with new leaders and I've found that they are most concerned about two common mistakes: 1) They think they have to have all the answers and 2) They think they have to solve all of the problems.
Its crazy to watch these new leaders. They are overwhelmed, they've set super high expectations of themselves, and it seems like they can never relax. When they first start, they look fine - but after a short while it feels like they are the main star on the latest zombie apocalypse show. Their eyes are bloodshot, they are hunched over from the weight of their problems, and what used to be clear communication now an array of gurgling. What is going on?
I'd like to say that I've never fallen into this trap, but that would be a lie. I was (and still sometimes am) just that type of leader. I recall planning for my first staff meeting. I spend hours and hours preparing and pondering on what I could share with our teaching staff. I wanted to be the star. I wanted to impress. I wanted them to walk away thinking, "Gosh, Jason is so much better at this than we are." How ridiculous! Think about it - I was 32 at the time. Many of the teachers I'd be working with had at least that many years of experience! That is, these people have been teaching longer than I had been alive. How in the world did I expect to be the expert in the room? It was simply unrealistic…and yet, I still do it.
It's like I've got this image in my head that a leader is a soloist at a concert. She's the expert and at the exact right moment she is going to blow everyone away with her deep insights and her solutions to all of the problems, but this is rarely how leadership actually works.
You see, leadership is less about you being the expert and more about gathering collective knowledge. It's less about your ability to solve a problem and more about creating a team that can collaboratively resolve issues. It's less about being a soloist and much more like being the conductor.
So the next time you feel like you've got to know everything or that all of the problems of your organization are yours - remember, you've got people around you, you've got a lot of collective experience, you've got individuals who can care just as much about the problem as you do. So, step up to the rostrum, change your mentality from individual leader to team, start asking questions, seek the input of others, get people to join you in a cause, give away your authority and watch as your back becomes straighter, your eyes start to whiten, and your voice resumes being understandable.