Leaders Still Need To Do Stuff

February 23, 2009 — Leave a comment

Saturday morning I enjoyed a 45-minute Skype chat with my good friend David who now lives in the Netherlands. We struck up a friendship over electric guitars in a Singapore music shop a few years ago. Conversations with David never fail to sharpen my insights into life, fatherhood, music and servant leadership.

David’s the headmaster of a new British school in The Hague. New, as in still-having-the-concrete-poured-and-hiring-my-leadership-team new. David was lamenting the slow pace of progress in construction, and noted that the contractors had plenty of leaders, not enough doers. Stuff simply wasn’t getting done. Too many chiefs, not enough braves. Too many layers of hierarchy….

This got me thinking about some pioneering efforts that I’ve been a part of. I’ve started a few businesses, pioneered new movements where nothing existed, help plant three churches, and walked into leadership situations that needed a lot of rebuilding. Each scenario had a common theme: the need for lots of hands-on action on the front end.

Start-ups require a lot of blood, sweat and tears from whoever owns the vision. The trick is to monitor closely how much hands-on servanthood is required to get the plane off the runway and into the air, then to begin giving away leadership as soon as possible to others around us. Otherwise we risk holding on too long, burning ourselves out, and robbing motivation from others.

There is an art and science to knowing when to shift our leadership style from eyes-on-hands-on to eyes-on-hands-off. And when to shift back, if necessary.

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