Leadership is the art of releasing greatness in others

Releasing Greatness

I have this great piece of art on my wall that says, “Leadership is the art of creating greatness in other people.” I love the art. But if I were to make one change it would be from “creating greatness” to “releasing greatness.”

That’s because I don’t normally create the greatness that I see in the people around me. They bring the greatness. My job as a leader is to notice it and then help create the space for them to shine.

Your job as a leader is to notice the potential in others and release it. Click To Tweet

Three Ways to Notice the Greatness in Others

If only the people we worked with wore tags on their shirts that declared what they were great at, right? It would be so easy if they could just tell you, “here’s what I’m great at.”

But the truth is that most of us (and them) don’t know what we’re great at and even if we had an inkling, it’s not like we’d declare it because of all the insecurity we care around with us.

So what can you do to help identify the greatness that is in others?

One of the things I look for is what they volunteer to do. When someone is volunteering to pick up an assignment, they’re expressing interest. That interest may not fall in their normal assignments, but it’s a way for them to showcase what they’re good at and what they enjoy. Pay attention when hands are raised!

Another way to identify the seeds of greatness is to watch who people go to for different issues. Just because you haven’t noticed someone’s greatness doesn’t mean that others haven’t. So watch when others start going to the same person for help. They’re telling you, this is the go-to person for these kinds of tasks.

The third way to identify what someone is gifted at is to watch how fast things get done. Many people can create a PowerPoint deck, an Excel spreadsheet, or whatever work your team is doing at work. But not everyone does things quickly. Or more importantly, quickly and still amazing! People who can do what no one else does, and do it faster than everyone else, are normally showcasing (even if they don’t know it) a gift.

Before you can release greatness in others, you have to notice it. In this post I share 3 ways to see it. Click To Tweet

The Four Factors that Limit Releasing Others’ Greatness

Your own ego can limit you more than anything else. If you see someone else who is doing something incredible, and they’re doing something you have no interest in, you won’t likely have an issue with it. But when they’re doing something you love, or want to do well, and they’re showing all the signs of doing it better than you, it can be hard to encourage them.

That’s when it’s time to remind yourself that the world needs all the greatness it can find. And there’s more than enough room for a lot of people to be awesome at the same thing.

Your insecurity is another limiting factor. There was a time when I didn’t want my boss to talk to my team members directly. I can’t even explain what faulty logic was running in my brain, but it was all driven by insecurity. Today if there’s a chance that someone on my team might be able to help my boss, I get out of the way as fast as possible. But if you’re still caught worrying about whether you’re needed, let me simply tell you that you’re awesome. Don’t let an insecurity stop you from being the most helpful person around.

Bureaucracy can quickly kill someone’s interest in being great. I don’t know about you, but if I have to jump thru hoops to do something awesome, it just makes it harder for me to want to give it a shot. This is a silly example, but years ago we had a small team that wanted to crush it. So we worked late and often on the weekends. No one was pushing us. We loved it. And we loved being together. You know what killed it? The fact that the building we worked in would turn off the air conditioning automatically at 6 pm on weekdays and have it off on weekends. When summer came, we all stopped going above and beyond because it was too hot.

Being busy will kill your ability to notice greatness. The last limiting factor is how busy you let yourself get. When your day is packed – 5-10 meetings from start to finish – it’s hard to look up and around and witness how awesome others are. And if you take too long to notice, and too long to give others space to be awesome, guess what happens? Those folks don’t feel very appreciated and they leave. They vote with their feet.

Don't let your best people quit because you didn't create space for them to be great. Four things to watch for: Click To Tweet

Five Ways You could Be Releasing Greatness Right Now

If you’re all about releasing greatness in others, here are five different tips to help you build an incredible and high performing team.

First, learn to be Comfortable with slower performance (initially)
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something. Even if you can do it faster. More than two decades ago I read a study by IBM where they were evaluating the efficacy of delegation. They discovered that even if something took 10x longer, it was worth assigning to someone else. While that might freak you out, the logic is sound. Because in my experience, the second and third times it drops to 7 or 8x. And after a few times it’s 2-3x. And then suddenly they’re doing things faster than you.

So learn to put things in the laps of others. You never know when you’ll see that the effort you expected (10x) was not what happened (.5x). People will love the opportunity and challenge to step up and deliver.

Second, learn to Capture an imagination
A lot of times when you give someone an assignment that they feel is too big for them, they’ll give you reasons why maybe someone else should do it. They’re basically afraid of the blame that comes with failure. In that moment is when you get to inspire them to step up to the challenge. We all have worked on stuff that feels larger than us. But some of those moments have been pivotal in our own development. Share those stories!

Third, learn to Coach
To be clear, coaching isn’t the same as “here’s how I would have done it.” A lot of times what I hear others do isn’t coaching. They’re second-guessing. Or they’re highlighting why they wouldn’t have done it how someone else did it.

One of the aspects of coaching that I love the most is when I get to help someone think better. But that means I have to help them ask different questions to help them think about and see the situation in front of them differently. As you get better and better at teaching people to ask the right questions, you’ll see marked and serious growth from your team.

Fourth, learn to Celebrate
Now, to be honest, not everyone will love celebrations. I work with a couple people who don’t celebrate much because they’re thrilled by the next challenge. So the moment one hill has been climbed, they’re off to the next one.

But some people, in order for them to shine, need the celebration that comes from a kind word, a pat on the back, and some external recognition. And the more you get in the habit of celebrating, the better you’ll connect with the kinds of folks that thrive off it.

Lastly, learn to Challenge
Pushing people to go further than they thought they could is something you see everyday in the gym. But we don’t always see it in a work environment. We get nervous. We don’t want to be pushy or look like we’re being mean.

But pushing someone to do more, go further, to level up, or to step their game up is positive, not negative. Can we all agree that it’s easier to stay comfortable? So our job as leaders is to let people enjoy that spot, but not for too long. Eventually you have to promote them or give them an assignment outside of their comfort zone and push them to step up to the next level for their own personal and career growth.

Release greatness in others is more about you than about them. Click To Tweet