The other day, while delivering a virtual masterclass for a team of executives of a Fortune 500 company, James, the CEO of the company addressed the team for the first 5 minutes before handing over the mike to me. He asked a question to his leadership team which I thought was extremely powerful. He asked, “Who would fill your chair if you weren’t here?”
I loved the way he connected with his team through this question. It provided them with some deep thinking and introspection of what true leadership means. In fact, it took me back to my first role as a leader. In my first leadership role, I didn’t develop other leaders the way I needed to. As a result, an organization and team that blossomed while I was there quickly fell apart only a few months after my departure.
In my 21 years of coaching and speaking, I have seen many leaders take pride in the fact that the department will fail or slowdown without them. They feel a sense of accomplishment when they hear that they are irreplaceable. And this is a very dangerous leadership syndrome. Because it showcases that you have your interest before the organizations interest. It’s leaders like these who are create a leadership gap in the organization.
The saddest thing about today's corporate world is that instead of pulling others up, many managers choose to push people down. The corporate world is filled with managers but lack true leaders.
I believe that a leader’s main job is not to create more followers but to develop more leaders. You see, followers are dependent — they need to be told what to do. It builds a culture of instructions and dependency that can lead to stagnation for the leader, and the team and also reduces the organization’s ability to change. Some people believe that helping others develop as leaders could threaten their authority or position. But failing to optimize the talent of others is setting yourself, and the company up for failure.
To survive in these times of change, the organization’s ability to change has to be greater and faster than the rate of change in the marketplace. So, leaders who create more leaders increase the capacity of the organization to change and to grow. Leaders who create more leaders, increase the capacity of their people to lead themselves.
To develop more leaders in your organization – create an environment in which leaders can emerge. Encourage the people within your organization to own their decisions and be accountable for them. Give them the freedom to learn, grow and act. As a leader, you should be thinking about developing someone to take your place. You should create a culture of leadership. The job of a leader is to create an environment where people can choose their path and flourish on their own individual journey. A place where they feel supported.
Great leaders never leave behind an empty chair. Instead, they leave behind a legacy of leaders who develop more leaders. When you treat your people as a leader, you are turning them into someone who develops the necessary independence, strength, and personal accountability for them to lead others.
Do the people around you encourage you to become a better follower or a better leader?
What do you encourage in other people? Followership or Leadership?
Never leave an empty chair behind.
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