As a leader, you should make yourself irrelevant

I’ve been building teams for the last 5 years and there’s one thing I’ve realized – the more my team depends on me, the more work I have to do to actually make the team work. My personal ambition is to get to a point where my team doesn’t really need me. To a point where they have all the skills, context, information and ownership to take decisions and keep moving forward. Most dependencies come in, where there is a lack of context and/or when there is a lack of ownership & freedom to take decisions.

Lack of context is a slightly easier problem that can be fixed by communicating a lot, very often. But a lot of leaders often find difficulties in letting go and giving somebody else complete ownership of something.

The tradeoff here is that in the short term, there will be screwups and mistakes – most of which can be reversed and corrected.

And when your team goes through the process of screwing up and fixing, they will automatically start taking more ownership. As a leader, all you should do is cheer them from the sidelines and only step in if they ask for help.

Giving up control becomes easy when you think of decisions as reversible and irreversible.

The reality is, most decisions are reversible. There are only a handful of decisions that you will take in a year, that are truly irreversible. All the reversible decisions should be taken by your team by default and you should only worry about the irreversible ones.

Over time, leaders should free up their time from day to day business to focus on those few large decisions that are going to make a large impact. Being truly productive doesn’t mean having your calendar blocked for meetings  all day long. Being productive means, having the time to think and make deliberate decisions that can potentially have large outcomes.

Now obviously, this doesn’t happen in the initial days when the team is small. But when the team starts scaling beyond 10-15 people, is when you should strive to make yourself irrelevant to the team.

Making yourself irrelevant is possible only when leaders are highly self aware, else they will always be an amount of insecurity. When you truly know your strengths and weaknesses and have the right intentions of empowering your team to become future leaders, making yourself irrelevant is even possible. Else, there will always be the need to control everything, and that is a precursor to micromanagement.

If you’re worried that your team will do better than you, leaders should work on this before anything else. If there is a problem with someone being better than you at something, that itself is a problem.

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