Why being Indispensable is NOT good for business

3rd July, 2017

Why being Indispensable is NOT good for business

What makes a good leader?  A simple question with a million different answers but one that anybody running an organisation should come back to frequently.  Of course there have been hundreds of thousands of books and article written on this topic but one angle that I seem to keep coming up against in my client work is that of being indispensable.  How often do you hear the phrase “So-and-so is really indispensable to that team/company/organisation/enterprise”?  That may well be true, at that point in time.  If it remains true for a long period then something is not quite right in the leadership approach of that particular outfit.  If you are truly indispensable in your role then the organisation has a fatal weakness.  Not only will it be in deep trouble if the apocryphal bus comes along and you go under it but it is pretty certain that the development and potential of the rest of the team is being held back or otherwise constrained.

If you are truly indispensable in your role then the organisation has a fatal weakness. CLICK TO TWEET

Regular readers of my articles will know that I am a great fan of Robert Hogan’s Lead series of personality profiles. Robert’s definition of leadership is “the ability to build and maintain a high performing team, whilst while getting people to forego individual goals to take on group goals”.  Therefore, true leadership glory comes not from the dazzling achievements of the leader but through the team that he or she has built and empowered.

None of this means of course that a good leader does nothing but merely let the team get on with it.  Good leaders are proactive, energetic, demanding and visionary.  It’s the overall focus that really determines greatness - the understanding of how to grow the strength and effectiveness of the top team, whilst still contributing and making things happen.

Here are some things to think about...

1. Make yourself redundant

Not a bad first line in a senior leader’s job description.  How could you best ensure the success of the team and the organisation if you weren’t there? Working through that thought will ensure that you have thought about all aspects of the leadership of the organisation and the mechanics of “how we do things around here”.

2. Succession planning

The mechanics of how you manage all of the above.  Succession plans are often thought of as the script for a huge game of chess.  “If so-and-so gets promoted we have ‘x’ and ‘y’ who can step in” etc.  This mechanistic approach isn’t very helpful because, as any half-decent chess player will tell you, after just a couple of moves, the number of permutations gets so huge that the exercise becomes meaningless.  What succession planning should do is to make sure that good development plans are in place across the organisation.

3. Keep team mix and skills under review

The logical follow on from thinking about succession.  You need to know what you expect people to move up into as the organisation grows and develops.  This clearly links straight back to your strategic thinking which will be the ultimate driver for your skills strategy.  Another reason to keep your strategy under constant review.

4. Keep raising the bar

Complacency is the forerunner of so many business and organisational calamities.  The leader’s job is to be enemy of complacency and to keep the team hungry for more and more success.

5. Keep it fun and engaging

We all spend a lot of time at work so why not make it enjoyable if at all possible?  How often do you talk to colleagues or friends and they recount their experiences at work which sound like a living hell.  The leader sets the tone and, whilst maintaining standards and pace, should be able to create a human and satisfying work culture and environment.

And finally, whilst we have been talking about trying not to be indispensable in your leadership role, consider the shorter term issues that can arise.  The dreaded holiday and the thought of leaving everything in other peoples' hands.  All of the above applies if you feel you can’t get away and leave them to it for a couple of weeks.  You won't have benefited nearly enough from your break if you have constantly been in touch, nor will your team gain anything because they are not being given the freedom to make decisions and react to problems and issues.  So go on, give it a go.  

Related Article: Top Tips for Preparing for a Holiday

Get away properly and delegate the running of the show to the team. You might be pleasantly surprised as to how well they do and that might be first step towards making yourself redundant.  What have you got to lose? And if you need a confidential chat about how you could become a better leader, just give us a call on  +44 (0)1302 746430.

Recent Articles:
Strategy and Top Team Development - How are they connected?
How to Unstick your Top Team
Know thyself - the Benefits of using Personality Profiles

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Steve HintonWritten by Steve Hinton

Steve Hinton is an experienced Executive Coach and Consultant working with Chief Executives, Managing Directors, Senior Executives and other leaders and can work with you to create exceptional and successful leadership teams.

Contact Steve for an informal chat, and take the first step toward your team's super success!