It had already been a crazy but productive day, yet I still had an important presentation to make before the night was over. The day had been so full I found myself not quite finished prepping a few of the materials I would need for tonight's meeting. Fortunately, one of my team members was with me and he asked if there was anything he could do to help.
"Yes," I answered, as I tossed him the keys to my car. "Drive!"
I hopped into the passenger seat in the front of the car and, using the drive time to the meeting location, had enough time to complete my prep and even a couple minutes to relax before arriving and starting a busy evening.
By turning the wheel over to someone else, I was able to get done what I needed to (which would also help my team), and also allowed someone to do something they were good at (a great assistant providing assistance).
My long day turned out to be successful not because of all the things I accomplished, but because of the many things several people accomplished. That's because effective leaders know to purposely look for opportunities to "ride shotgun."
In order to build, motivate, lead and support a successful team, effective leaders don't spend their time basking in the spotlight. That will only result in being highly unproductive and unsuccessful. Great teams coalesce around a shared vision, but that vision becomes reality only by the best use of the talents of each team member.
To achieve the objectives of your organization, there are times when others need to shine by bringing their talent, skills, and experience front and center. Great leaders know when to put the spotlight on others and assist them in bringing their A game.
It's natural that leaders want to be out front leading the way. But sometimes, we help our teams progress more by stepping aside and letting others drive for a while. By doing so, we:
- Provide an outlet for the contribution of others to be spotlighted and received in a broader context.
- Provide a key opportunity for other leaders to contribute in ways in which we are not gifted, talented, or experienced in.
- Provide an opportunity for other leaders to gain additional leadership experience.
- By giving the wheel to others, they feel a greater responsibility and commitment to the team and its goals when they take the lead. They share in steering the team on its journey.
- When others are leading, leaders are working. Occasionally taking the passenger seat provides a leader an opportunity to focus on the basic "nuts and bolts" work they need to give attention to.
- Purposely looking for opportunities to ride shotgun helps keep a leader humble. It provides a reminder there is a lot of talent on the team and everything doesn't rely on the work of one person.
- Stepping aside so others can drive is an additional way of recognizing their importance to the team.
- Sometimes, you simply need a break. By letting others take the wheel, you can catch your breath and rest up so you can lead energetically as the journey progresses.