Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.
There’s No Point Having a Dog and then Barking Yourself
What would you think of a person who purchased a Rottweiler as a guard dog for their house, and then that person sat down outside next to the dog and barked themselves whenever someone walked past the front fence? You’d think they were an idiot.
And you’d be right.
And yet, that is exactly what I see leaders doing constantly with the people and teams they lead.
Now there are definitely things that as a leader you can and probably should do. There may even be things that as a leader you can do better than anyone else you lead. And there may come a time where you give the responsibility for a task to another person and they don’t perform that task exactly the way you would have done it or even as well as you would have done it.
As a leader, however, it’s your job to mobilise and multiply the people you are responsible for. And you can’t do this by doing all the work yourself. You will need to hand things off to other people on your team to take and run with. And you may be handing off things you really like doing, but they need to be handed off so that you can be freed up for other things.
And in this process it is very easy to be tempted to take back some of those tasks as you see them not being performed as well as they might be. And this temptation can be so subtle that you might not even notice it, or it might even sound like the responsible thing to do! “This ministry matters,” you might say. “These people should have the highest level of care, and so I should step back in. I should take over.” But it’s almost always the wrong call. (Sometimes, though, this may very well be the right call to make. But that’s rare. Rarer than you might think.)
It restricts the amount of ministry that can be done.
It severely limits the amount and quality of on-the-job training that can happen.
It will more than likely undermine the enthusiasm of the delegated leader.
It may cause bitterness amongst your team.
It will hinder the creativity of the team. If they know that you’ll take back over if it’s not done YOUR way – how it’s always been done, perhaps – then you’ll be training them to never innovate or try and improve or do it differently.
If you give them responsibility for a task, but then step in and do it yourself anyway, it will rupture the trust between you and the rest of your team. And long-term this is probably the most damaging effect. Once you lose the trust of those you lead then you’ve lost any legitimate influence that you had with them and so you’ve effectively lost your leadership. (Unless you lead through the power of your position or through the power of fear.)
There’s no point having a dog and then doing the barking yourself.