How (and Why) to Get Out of Your Own Way as a Leader

UPDATED: February 1, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 29, 2022
How to Get Out of Your Own Way as a Leader

This week on the SUCCESS Line we discuss how listeners can get out of their own way when it comes to leading a business. I’m joined by Todd Foster, who’s served as a coach/consultant for the past nine years. Our conversation focused on four overall areas: how to hire for strengths and weaknesses, using behavioral assessments, how to avoid burnout and how to grow organizations. Let’s dig in. 

How to exhibit better hiring behaviors

Does it make more sense to put time and effort into shoring up your weaknesses, or should you instead focus on your strengths? Foster and I agree that leaders should leverage their time and energy on areas of strength. Even if you can improve on your weaknesses, you’ll likely just raise them to a mediocre level. The team as a whole can achieve a lot more if you focus on finding and hiring people who are skilled in areas in which you yourself are lacking.

Foster and I also reviewed the difference between a manager and a leader, something fundamental you must understand to get ahead of the biggest crisis in business: people thinking they’re leaders, yet no one follows them. So how do you act as a leader who works with people, and not as a manager who has people work for them? It’s critical to lead by example, and to build your leadership skills by learning and gathering feedback from those who are smarter than you. It requires continual intention, time and investment to grow as a leader.

Employees who are just beginning their careers don’t respond well to management, so to have an impact, it’s essential that you develop this leadership muscle. We’re now seeing businesses start to get away from processes styled like assembly lines that have long been a part of the fabric of our culture, and focus more on letting every person become a leader within themselves. If you allow people the flexibility and freedom to think on their own for what they’ve been hired to do, that often keeps them coming back to work.

Identifying the right people for right now

The best way to hedge your bets against failure begins with picking the right people, something which behavioral assessments can help you achieve. These assessments remove the emotions from selecting talent. If you decide to work with someone because you like them, you might actually be finding yourself drawn to the fact that they are similar to you. What you really want is to find someone that’s great at the things that you’re not.

Ultimately, if they’re not the right person for the job, it costs you a lot more money in the long run versus not hiring them in the first place. And even if it’s the right person, if they’re in the wrong role it sets everyone up for failure. You should be slow to hire, as you should always have a bench of talent and not make a hiring decision out of desperation.

Sometimes there’s a fear of being exposed with a behavioral analysis. Perhaps you believe your organization is running smoothly, but if you’re never asking for feedback, that’s creating a false sense of security. If an analysis returns a result that says, for example, that people are in the wrong roles, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever find success. It simply points out that you’re going to have to find a different way to accomplish it. So while your ego might smart a little, the analysis can help you find the holes, be a better team builder and have a stronger organization overall.

How to handle burnout

Burnout is an occupational phenomenon that has happened or will happen to almost everyone. When you are constantly tired and no longer feel passionate about something, or when you stop doing what you truly want to do in lieu of something you feel you have to do, your quality of work goes through the floor. Capitalize on the power of leverage to help you conquer burnout. Don’t think you can do it all—that won’t move your business forward. Instead, focus your energy on what you want to do, and if you’re not the person who can or wants to do something, hire someone else who is.

How to grow

In order to grow your organization, keep these key things in mind. Embrace change, and understand that it will take some work to get there. Get comfortable with occasional boredom or repetition of the fundamentals. When business is chaotic, that is often an indicator something is going wrong.

Finally, you must connect to your “why,” for a big enough “why”—or reason for being—will pull you through any “how.” Everyone in business is solving a problem. So ask yourself continually, what problem can I solve, and who can I help?

The SUCCESS Line is no longer releasing new episodes on the SUCCESS Podcast Network, but you can still listen to the full conversation below.

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Ben Fairfield is the Managing Director of SUCCESS Coaching & a SUCCESS Certified Coach.