I think many leaders – especially those new to leadership roles – feel that they need to maintain a tight hold on their role as leader. They sometimes think that relinquishing leadership for a project or over a customer or client matter to someone else may indicate a lack of confidence, knowledge or even disinterest. In my experience, it is almost always quite the opposite.
It takes a tremendous amount of confidence (in another person and in one’s own “skin”) to be able to turn over leadership of something to a colleague. Why? Because 1) There is risk involved in failure. The person could fail to lead well, and the project could fail. This could put business relationships, employee confidence and even company revenue at risk. 2) There is risk involved in success. What if the appointed leader succeeds wildly, bringing private and public accolades to themselves and to the team, while the original “leader” isn’t mentioned and/or is overlooked? What if some people see the success of the project and think the project leader is better, smarter, more of a leader than the original leader?
It takes a great deal of confidence in oneself to be able to see and understand both risks and to step aside for someone else to lead in spite of this.
What is to be gained? The lesson of true leadership. Being a leader does not always mean leading the project, the client or the group. It always means leading people. And leading people means teaching, mentoring, coaching and ultimately letting others take risks and enjoy successes.