Group of Multiethnic People Discussing About Leadership

4 Counterintuitive Leadership Lessons

Last month, I wrote about 7 leadership lessons I took from my experience growing GovLoop from zero to over 25 employees.

Along the way, some the lessons I learned were fairly obvious and aligned with what my brain was thinking. But other times, the lessons were counterintuitive and took awhile to fully understand in my head. They’re lessons that I often see others struggling with, as well. These are lessons that, once I accepted and deployed, were extremely effective — but they took a long time for me to understand because they don’t seem to make sense right away. They might even seem to run counter to logic. But they work. So to help others out on their leadership journeys, I’m writing today about four counterintuitive lessons I’ve learned about leadership.

  • 1 – Hire People Better Than You – As a new leader, it’s easy to quickly get a grasp that you need to hire great people. However, it is a little tricky to actually hire people who are better than you  (those who are more experienced, more talented, etc).  Your mind may quickly go to “How can I be their boss if they are better than me?”  Yet, that’s the #1 skill of a leader – hire people in roles that are better than you if you yourself did the role.
  • 2 – Make the Strong…Stronger – As a leader, it’s easy to focus and spend time on your problems.  Are you spending all your time trying to get that C performer to a C+?  That’s the wrong area to be spending energy on. It’s actually a better use of your time getting that A player to an A+. You’ll spend 3X longer trying to get a C player to C+ than an A player to A+.  Think about it from college sports analogy: Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari spends more time with his #1 recruit trying to get them even better than on the 10th person on bench trying to get them slightly better.
  • 3 – Lean into Growth – Skiers understand that when you are going down a hill, you need to lean into the speed and actually go faster to get control.  The moment you start hitting the brakes you start skidding and it’s more dangerous.  Same is true with growth in organizations. When there’s an opportunity and things are starting to get a little out of control, your first tendency is to hit the brakes, slow down, and reassess.  The problem is you get on a bad virtual cycle once you start hitting the brakes – instead you should lean into the growth, go faster, and you’ll solve the problem along the way as you grow.
  • 4 – Make Yourself Less Needed – Most leaders get to their level because they are hard-working, have ideas, and like getting items done. When there are issues, it’s an easy default for leaders to want to come in and solve the problem. Some leaders like to believe that the key to success of their team is them — and only them — guiding the ship.  However, true leaders make themselves less needed over time. If you are truly successful, you aren’t solving problems – problems are solved by the team without you.  Or if there are issues, you can ask questions that help folks reevaluate “why” and come back with a solution.  And true success is if you have such a great team that when you go on vacation, everything still runs perfectly — in fact, they barely need you.

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15 Comments

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Angela Rosa

Cannot see the four lessons … just my system or others too? Are they available via another link?

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Candyce Jillson

Neither can I Angela…I keep randomly clicking hoping it will pop up:)

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Profile Photo Catherine Andrews

Hi all – if you’re in an old version of IE you may have trouble. I’ll also paste them below here so you can read them, though:

1 – Hire People Better Than You – As a new leader, it’s easy to quickly get a grasp that you need to hire great people. However, it is a little tricky to actually hire people who are better than you 25732554570_f6d9d4fd14_o(those who are more experienced, more talented, etc). Your mind may quickly go to “How can I be their boss if they are better than me?” Yet, that’s the #1 skill of a leader – hire people in roles that are better than you if you yourself did the role.

2 – Make the Strong…Stronger – As a leader, it’s easy to focus and spend time on your problems. Are you spending all your time trying to get that C performer to a C+? That’s the wrong area to be spending energy on. It’s actually a better use of your time getting that A player to an A+. You’ll spend 3X longer trying to get a C player to C+ than an A player to A+. Think about it from college sports analogy: Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari spends more time with his #1 recruit trying to get them even better than on the 10th person on bench trying to get them slightly better.

3 – Lean into Growth – Skiers understand that when you are going down a hill, you need to lean into the speed and actually go faster to get control. The moment you start hitting the breaks you start skidding and it’s more dangerous. Same is true with growth in organizations. When there’s an opportunity and things are starting to get a little out of control, your first tendency is to hit the brakes, slow down, and reassess. The problem is you get on a bad virtual cycle once you start hitting the brakes – instead you should lean into the growth, go faster, and you’ll solve the problem along the way as you grow.

4 – Make Yourself Less Needed – Most leaders get to their level because they are hard-working, have ideas, and like getting items done. When there are issues, it’s an easy default for leaders to want to come in and solve the problem. Some leaders like to believe that the key to success of their team is them — and only them — guiding the ship. However, true leaders make themselves less needed over time. If you are truly successful, you aren’t solving problems – problems are solved by the team without you. Or if there are issues, you can ask questions that help folks reevaluate “why” and come back with a solution. And true success is if you have such a great team that when you go on vacation, everything still runs perfectly — in fact, they barely need you.

Reply
mattie

1 – Hire People Better Than You – As a new leader, it’s easy to quickly get a grasp that you need to hire great people. However, it is a little tricky to actually hire people who are better than you (those who are more experienced, more talented, etc). Your mind may quickly go to “How can I be their boss if they are better than me?” Yet, that’s the #1 skill of a leader – hire people in roles that are better than you if you yourself did the role.
2 – Make the Strong…Stronger – As a leader, it’s easy to focus and spend time on your problems. Are you spending all your time trying to get that C performer to a C+? That’s the wrong area to be spending energy on. It’s actually a better use of your time getting that A player to an A+. You’ll spend 3X longer trying to get a C player to C+ than an A player to A+. Think about it from college sports analogy: Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari spends more time with his #1 recruit trying to get them even better than on the 10th person on bench trying to get them slightly better.
3 – Lean into Growth – Skiers understand that when you are going down a hill, you need to lean into the speed and actually go faster to get control. The moment you start hitting the breaks you start skidding and it’s more dangerous. Same is true with growth in organizations. When there’s an opportunity and things are starting to get a little out of control, your first tendency is to hit the brakes, slow down, and reassess. The problem is you get on a bad virtual cycle once you start hitting the brakes – instead you should lean into the growth, go faster, and you’ll solve the problem along the way as you grow.
4 – Make Yourself Less Needed – Most leaders get to their level because they are hard-working, have ideas, and like getting items done. When there are issues, it’s an easy default for leaders to want to come in and solve the problem. Some leaders like to believe that the key to success of their team is them — and only them — guiding the ship. However, true leaders make themselves less needed over time. If you are truly successful, you aren’t solving problems – problems are solved by the team without you. Or if there are issues, you can ask questions that help folks reevaluate “why” and come back with a solution. And true success is if you have such a great team that when you go on vacation, everything still runs perfectly — in fact, they barely need you.

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Jon White

For those who cannot see the article past the intro, this appears to be a browser issue. I tried it using Chrome and I can see the rest of the article.

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Michelle A. Kirwan

Can it be re-posted please. Would love to see this article.

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Tracy Gallaway

I think something happened with this post. Looks like an interesting topic. Please repost!

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Tammy Seleski

I see them and they’re great! I’m happy to say I have a supervisor that exercises 3 of 4 key leadership lessons! I’m very lucky indeed.

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Profile Photo David Kuehn

Making yourself unnecessary (lesson four) has been something I have tried to do in every job I have had. Which builds on lesson one and two by having better people take your place. Then you can go onto new challenges and feel good about what you left.

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Robin

I cannot see anything but the intro paragraph using Internet Explorer. I cut and pasted from the address bar in IE to Chrome and I can see the entire article.

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Greg

Lesson #1: make sure article is transparent to all. jk :)
Can you put lessons in comment section to view? Thank you.

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