Many leaders would rather get and keep a grip than lose their grip. But if you want to build trust with others, you need to have the ability to let go. The discussion here is not about delegation. It concerns letting go of personal qualities that build walls not only between you and your team but also within yourself.
Letting Go of Bad Attitudes
If you want to grab hold of the eight energizing, productive principles we advocate in our book Trust Me, you must first let go of some bad attitudes.
Pride is pure selfishness. A proud leader’s mind is closed to new truths; he or she is unteachable. It causes inflexibility and resists change.
Pride is a focus on us rather than on the development of other people. Pride causes a destructive competition between our team members and us, and between their ideas and ours. It forces us to fight for our ideas and our ways just for the sake of winning the argument, not for the development of the organization or other people.
The opposite of pride is humility. Humility is self-effacement rather than self-advertisement. It focuses our attention away from ourselves and onto other people and their development. It involves being flexible enough to listen and be taught by others. It means allowing other people to generate new ideas and supporting those ideas even if they fail. It is realizing that the whole team, organization, or business unit is not dependent solely on you.
Pride is a wall; humility is a gate.
A Judgmental Attitude
Another bad attitude leaders must rid themselves of is a judgmental attitude toward others—
Judgmental leaders are negative and critical. Inside they may be angry or suffering from insecurity and low self-esteem. The result of this kind of attitude is a group of employees and team members who are afraid to act.
The judgmental leader needs to learn to become a developer, a builder. To fulfill this role, the leader needs to behave nonjudgmentally. In order to do that, he or she must respect, understand, accept, believe, and hope in subordinates and all team members.
An uncontrolled will is a negative force that is rooted in a deep stubbornness and an attachment to personal (and immediate) gratification, mostly at the cost of the development of others. Leaders with uncontrolled wills avoid committing to common values or ideals beyond their own. Rather than a stubborn will, we need a focused will that centers on development, goals, and productivity.
Keeping our egos in check and our wills under control enables us to function much better as teammates and leaders.
Allowing Ourselves to Stagnate
Frustration, burnout, and self-will can often cause stagnation. Likewise, when we feel overlooked or feel that our work doesn’t quite measure up, we have a tendency to sit back and let someone else take over. Stagnation also develops from not being asked to contribute. When leaders take control of innovation, followers can simply give up because their input is not wanted or appreciated.
Common traits that lead to stagnation are perfectionism or mistaking activity for achievement. Leaders who are perfectionistic or are more focused on activity than achievement create a stagnant work force. People give up trying to achieve anything meaningful because the perfectionistic leader never appreciates their achievements but rather picks apart everything they do.
Rather than allowing themselves to stagnate, leaders need to serve and teach boldly and provide vision, goals, and assistance to subordinates and team members.