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Feeling burned out? Frustrated? Overwhelmed and agitated?

You’re certainly not alone. But it might be partly your fault.

While the demands of leadership can be intense at the best of times, (and for most of us these are certainly not the best of times), it’s also true that too many leaders take on too much of the burden because we just don’t really trust our teams.

The symptoms can be subtle, and self-diagnosis is tricky when the disease itself is rooted in some degree of self-deception; but your healthy impact and survival as a leader may depend on taking an intentional look at whether you are holding too much in your own hands because you believe no one else is truly capable of handling it.

If every decision requires your personal approval.
If you find yourself redoing your subordinates assignments.
If you’ve been accused of micromanaging.
If in your heart you secretly feel like it would all collapse without you.
If you can’t take a day off, let alone a two week vacation, without checking in frequently and worrying the whole time.
You have a trust issue.

There are two possible legitimate causes for not trusting your team. 

1. Competence: If your people don’t have the skills, knowledge, or experience to do what needs to be done you need to get them training in whatever way they learn best. Developing staff is a key responsibility of effective leaders and it may be a time when investing more in addressing skill gaps or hiring better equipped people needs to be a particular priority.

2. Character: If you can’t trust someone to give their best effort or act with integrity you probably need to challenge, confront, or terminate them. It may be that they don’t understand the expectations or the effect of their failings. Or it may be that they have other issues outside of work that are dragging them down. In any case, character issues are too often tolerated for far too long compromising the culture and impact of the whole organization.

If your people really aren’t trustworthy and you can’t lead them to become trustworthy they need to go.

It’s also possible though that the real reasons you don’t trust your team are about your own issues.

If you are driven by insecurity, have a need for absolute control, lack deeply rooted confidence, are trying to prove yourself, or are feeling inadequate, intimidated, or like an imposter there’s a pretty good chance you’re vulnerable to not trusting others because you don’t trust yourself.

Maybe you’ve been burned or betrayed in the past.
Maybe you were raised with unrealistic expectations.
Maybe you have a compelling drive to perfectionism.

All are valid reasons for trust to be difficult, but you have to get past them if you want to approach your potential as a leader and as an organization. 

There’s good news here. There is hope. You can become more trusting of your team if you’re willing to do some personal reflection and some hard work. It might take some uncomfortable vulnerability but it will absolutely be worth it for you and for your team.

Catalyst has a couple tools that could be useful.

The REACTION Dashboard will help your team identify areas where trust needs to grow and set action steps to get there. Our Kryptonite session gives individuals and teams strategies to recognize how insecurity is affecting them and to make helpful practical changes. Contact us to see if there’s something we can do to help you build the kind of trust that makes leadership easier, more effective, and a lot more fun.

Leadership, Vision
When the time comes that you leave your current role what will you leave behind?

I’m fascinated by leadership transitions; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast exploring the collapse of a one prominent megachurch and stopped in my tracks when one of the senior leaders described the reaction after the controversial founding pastor resigned: “It only took 2-3 hours for us to realize the only option was to shut it all down”. What a tragic outcome for something that really ought to have been bigger than a single individual.

In that case there are numerous factors that contributed to this ending, but it got me thinking about what remains in any organization after the leader departs for whatever reason.

I’ve always felt that if the organization fails after you leave it means you weren’t actually a very good leader, but I’m reconsidering.

Maybe it really depends what you’re trying to accomplish.

Sure, a cult of personality  around one charismatic persona is problematic, but there are some legacies worth pursuing other than an organization that grows and thrives in your absence.

Maybe your lasting legacy is something different. Like one or more of these:

1. Inspired and Equipped Individuals – Building an organization may not be your primary skill or interest if what you really care about is investing yourself in one or a few particular people. Seeing them find and follow their own sense of purpose may be a greater contribution than the legal entity that provided the opportunity and context for your mentoring to happen.

2. Meaningful Policy – You might be motivated by a cause and see an opportunity to develop, support, or advocate for policies that reach beyond one organization into networks, industries, or even law. Establishing a lasting best practice or a statute that advances or protects something you care about deeply may be profoundly satisfying.

3. Geographical Location – If you love a particular wetland, neighbourhood, or nation it may be more important to you that you’ve affected that space in a way that will last than having established an eternal organization. Whether its environmental protection, impactful zoning, or enhancing the appreciation of the beauty and meaning of a place; changing a location into something you’re proud of is a credible achievement.

4. Impacting an Industry – Many leaders I get to work with have a vision that extends beyond their own organization into the broader systems of their industry. Maybe what will resonate deeply in you years from now is not outdoing your “competition” but helping the entire network rise, grow, and develop. Setting standards, training programs, networks, or gatherings that bring out the best in the entire group could count for far more than a single entity.

5. Something More (or Less) – There are endless possibilities that could be your leadership legacy. Some are drawn to national and international impact, others have less grand visions. Some aspire to breadth, others depth, others to things that don’t even fit that dichotomy at all. You may be drawn to the expression of something profoundly personal or to dramatic, strategic, epic challenges.

The point is; try to figure out what you want your legacy to be, what you’re called to, what will give the greatest meaning and satisfaction to your work; and pursue those things. There’s a pretty good chance they’ll change over the years so check in with yourself once in a while to see if you’re still on the right track.

I am grateful for those leaders who are gifted and committed to building healthy organizations that are ready to thrive after they move on. But I have a growing appreciation for the reality that there are other ways to succeed as a leader. The failure comes when we misunderstand or never explore what we really care about.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment with your strongest sense of the legacy you’re pursuing. And if I can help you figure out what it is, or how to align your efforts with it, let’s talk.