My Competence Is My Enemy

When Strength Becomes Weakness

Your hard work, education, and self-discipline have paid off. Congratulations for rising to a position of authority and leadership! People respect you. Your competence is often sought by others, both within your organization and by others in your industry and even outside your industry.Competence Tug of War

But now you’ve hit a plateau. The opportunities are there but you can’t seem to grow your organization fast enough to meet the demand. You recognize the bottleneck is leadership. You can’t find enough skillful leaders that you can trust to make good decisions. So every issue gets pushed up to a few very busy people.  Maybe it’s only one person: You.

STEP 1:  Admit the Problem

Our competence has a lot to do with how we get into positions of authority to begin with. But, as the saying goes, “What got us here won’t get us there.” Being a leader isn’t about using our skills (leadership skills excepted), it’s about getting others to use theirs. The hardest things for us to let go of doing ourselves are the things we’re really good at. Especially when those things have become part of our identity and reputation. We feel good about ourselves when our expertise shines.

But we have a choice: 1) Limit the growth of our organization to what we can do on our own, or 2) develop others to meet or exceed our competence so we can completely transfer some decision making responsibilities to them. That frees us to pursue growth strategies and develop more people so we can continue growing. Our leadership success is measured by the success of the people we develop.

That requires us to develop new skills (leadership skills) even as we help others develop their skills (including our old skills). If you’re not willing to grow and learn new skills, get comfortable with the limits you’re placing on your organization.

STEP 2: Do Something About It!

Yes, it takes time to develop others.  But that’s what leaders do. It may even require you to slow down organizational growth for a season so you have time to develop others and prepare for exponential growth.

Yes, everyone on your team – as well as those you have yet to hire – have shortcomings that interfere with their ability to acquire the expertise they need. Do you dismiss them because of those shortcomings or embrace the opportunities for growth? It’s your job as leader to coach them through their shortcomings to reach their full potential. You had shortcomings to overcome on your growth journey, too. If you’re good at what you do, you’re in a good position to help them grow faster than you did.

It’s Your Choice

You may be doing a lot of things well, but you’re not being a leader if you’re too busy executing your personal competencies to invest in growing others. If using your technical competencies is what you enjoy and want to spend your time doing, do that – but get out of the way and hand the leadership reins over to someone who wants to lead. © 2021 enLumen Leadership Services

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