Feb 12, 2008
Leading, following, and getting out of the way
12 Feb 2008
Posted by VAR
My name is Scott, and I’m a control freak. Or rather, I can occasionally be a control freak. Or rather, when I’m really passionate about something I can tend to overwhelm my fellow staffers with all my incredibly creative (??!) and insightful (???) ideas and guidance. Does that a control freak make? (The insecure side of me envisions VAR staff members nodding vigorously.)
As a leader, I’m learning that passion and creativity can be blessings and curses. They’re blessings when leaders channel them to spur individuals, teams and organizations to attempt new things, to be proactive and audacious and excellent in achieving their goals. But they can be curses when leaders – for all the best reasons, mind you – mistake their own ideas for the only ideas, and fail to trust in the inherent talent and creativity of the teams they’ve assembled to take a decent idea, make it better, and own and implement it without excessive oversight or…control.
The trick, of course, is that word trust. Trust means understanding you don’t have all the answers…and don’t have to. It means building the right team, equipping them with all the right tools and skills, and letting them go. Sometimes, it even means following them to places and outcomes you’d never have considered on your own (like this blog, for instance….).
Maybe that’s just common sense, but for an old control freak like me, it’s a lesson that’s been a long time coming. I bring it up now, as I watch your VAR staff execute preparations for our Legislative & Education Conference held this week in Richmond, because now that I see it, I’m starting to get it. I’ve never seen such a well-oiled machine as this group of folks (led expertly, on this conference project, by VAR’s cool and unflappable meeting planner Tracey Floridia, and supported by 25 other capable team members).
We started in the fall with a few ideas for this conference, a focus on content that contributed to strategic outcomes, and the sense (on my part at least) that we had exactly the right assets in place to prepare and execute this event with more polish and professionalism and style than ever before. We all contributed ideas, and then…I got out of the way. I hit the road. Traveling. All over the place, visiting members and local associations and attending NAR meetings, being about the business of Virginia REALTORS – and hoping that out-of-sight, out-of-mind would help temper my control-freakiness.
And you know what? To my amazement, it sort of did. Oh, my team was never really out-of-mind; they offered me abundant opportunities for input and feedback. But danged if they haven’t dazzled me with what they’ve accomplished…not only on this event, but myriad other projects in the works.
How easy it is for leaders like me to slip into the mindset that our performance will be evaluated based on how many good ideas we have, how many of our own ideas we implement. Or perhaps we lapse into thinking that the association will go into a holding pattern if we aren’t right there every minute shouting orders, contributing. But those aren’t good measures of effectiveness. They sound more like more insecurity than leadership. In contrast, real leadership mans establishing direction, building and equipping a team, removing obstacles from their paths, and letting them do what they’re good at, what you hired them to do in the first place.
Here at VAR, as leadership development goes, I’m still a work-in-progress. But this week in particular, I’m feeling mighty proud of this remarkable staff team and the work they’re doing on your behalf. And that feeling of pride trumps my insecurities any old day.
– Scott Brunner, CAE