I was recently thinking about what I consider to be the most misunderstood aspect of great leadership; in other words, what makes great leadership great? What immediately came to mind is not only misunderstood, but it also happens to be one of the most often overlooked elements of leadership. And it is one which also affords leaders the greatest opportunity for personal, professional, and enterprise growth. If you want to become a better leader in 2015, I suggest you become comfortable with a leadership practice that very few are – surrender.
Surrender – not for the faint of heart
You’ll rarely encounter the words leadership and surrender used together in complementary fashion. Society has labeled surrender as a sign of leadership weakness, when in fact, it can be among the greatest of leadership strengths. Let me be clear, I’m not encouraging giving in or giving up – I am suggesting you learn the ever so subtle art of letting go.
A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much better than their ability to control. The purpose is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way.
“The greatness of a mans power is the measure of his surrender.”
Surrender – control freaks need not apply
If you’re still not convinced the art of leadership is learning the focus point should be on surrender not control, consider this: control restricts potential, limits initiative, and inhibits talent. Surrender fosters collaboration, encourages innovation and enables possibility. Controlling leaders create bottlenecks rather than increase throughput. They lack trust and confidence, and often come across as insensitive if not arrogant. When you experience weak teams, micro-management, high stress, and operational strain you are experiencing what control has to offer.
Surrender allows the leader to serve where control demands the leader be served. Surrender allows leadership to scale and a culture of leadership to be established. Surrender prefers loose collaborative networks over structures allowing information to be more readily shared and distributed. Leaders who understand surrender think community, and culture – not org chart. Surrender is what not only allows the dots to be connected, but it’s what allows to dots to be multiplied.
I have found those who embrace control are on a power trip, while those who practice surrender are facilitating the distribution of authority. When you seek to build up others more than glorifying self you have developed a level of leadership maturity that values surrender over control. Surrender creates the desire for leaders to give credit rather than take it, to prefer hearing over being heard, to dialogue instead of monologue, to value unlearning as much as learning. Control messages selfishness, while surrender conveys selflessness – which is more important to you?
Surrender – when not to
Keep this in mind – we all surrender, but not all surrender is honorable. Some surrender to their ego, to the wrong priorities, or to other distractive habits. Others surrender to the positive realization they are not the center of the universe – they surrender to something beyond themselves in order to accomplish more for others. Bottom line – what you do or don’t surrender to will define you. Assuming you surrender to the right things, surrender is not a sign of leadership weakness, but is perhaps the ultimate sign of leadership confidence.
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