What is it about being indispensable that is attractive? Why are our workplaces full of people who are concerned when others around them are intelligent, articulate, and capable? Has competition driven us to the point that we don't want others to be successful? I am struggling with these questions right now because of some recent conversations I have had with executives. One was told that her "replacement" in a position was very advanced in certain operational techniques important to the role - the clear implication was that the new leader was making advancements over the former leader. The second was confronted with the reality that a team was operating at a high level without him - that they really didn't "need" him to function.
While the two circumstances are somewhat similar, the reactions were not. The first leader was ecstatic - the person who took her role was succeeding and the leader took some sense of pride in the fact that she helped mentor her successor while they worked together. The second leader was angry - he began trying to control every aspect of the operation and created discord within his team.
Some readers may be quick to point out that the first leader was no longer invested in the specific position and the second leader was still in his role. While I acknowledge this factual difference, I think the divergent reactions stem from something else - the person's understanding of what it means to lead.
Leadership is influence. And people of influence have followers. And great influencers have leaders for followers. Think John Maxwell's law of explosive growth - if you want your organization to reach maximum success, leaders need to multiply leaders. This means great leaders must invest in their followers and make them leaders. They must not be frightened about having a "follower-leader" who is gaining influence among peers. In fact, they must embrace the "follower-leader" concept and help each of their team members expand their influence, skills, and abilities.
Leading leaders may have challenges, but great leaders understand the benefits outweigh any potential risks because great leaders understand their organizations need more leaders and they are willing to help establish a culture of leadership - even if it means they are not "needed" as much as before.