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If the Shoe Fits: Leadership

by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read allIf the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI rarely mention ‘leadership’, because I believe that given the opportunity to act anyone can and will step up and lead when the time and cause is right.

That’s why I when I coach one of the mantras I offer is “leadership is like manure, it produces the best results when spread around.”

You wouldn’t think founders today would even consider any kind of old world hierarchical management, but they do.

Not overtly, but covertly—and often unconsciously.

It shows in their unwillingness (fear?) to delegate the authority to make decisions along with the responsibility of doing the work.

But there are major advantages to spreading leadership opportunities at every level in your organization.

Foremost is the fact that if you want to hire these days you need to offer your workers meaningful opportunities to grow or they’ll walk.

Growing includes leading and managing—even if it’s only a group of one, themselves.

It means pushing responsibility further and further down in your organization—not just the responsibility—but the authority required to accomplish whatever it is.

And that’s where most founders (and bosses) blow it.

They assign the task, but then require their people to keep running to them for permission to do each step.

I’m not saying to hand over total control, but you need to hand over enough authority to get the job done.

Even when it comes to money, which is often the biggest hang-up, you can still do it.

Create a budget for each task and give the responsibility for spending it to the person responsible for getting it done. Let her decide how to spend it without interference or “help” from you—unless she asks.

If she goes over budget don’t freak out. It’s not that much (or shouldn’t be) in the big picture and if you freak she may never recover.

She already knows that she messed up, so beating on her will accomplish nothing. Sit down calmly and let her walk you through the thinking and decision-making that led to being over budget, discuss it and lead her through a pattern that would have succeeded.

But if it turns out that the error is yours and the estimate was wrong, admit it, don’t try and convince her that someone else could have done it.

People aren’t stupid, she’ll know that the discussion ended as a CYA function for you—as will everyone, since stuff like this never stays secret.

Other great reasons to spread leadership around are increased productivity, more employee satisfaction, fewer logjams when you’re unavailable or traveling, easier staffing and less turnover.

Finally, spread it around because that’s what great founders do—they pay it forward by fostering the growth of more entrepreneurs.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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