Making Myself Unnecessary

I am a little annoyed with myself. As I address this topic of Leadership i find that I have fallen into the same trap as most others. I have succeeded in treating the difference between managers and leaders as two ends of a continuum and conveying the impression that one (managers) is bad and the other (leaders) is good.

In truth they are both good when they are good and abysmal when they are bad. But the point is they need each other. More to the point, in small business, senior management must almost perpetually play both roles simultaneously. The Bible says one cannot serve two masters because you will love the one and hate the other. And so it is when you must always wear two hats. We will gravitate toward one and develop a comfort zone and neglect the other.

The key to reaching the point of unnecessariness (I know it’s not a word) is emphasizing leadership traits over management traits in oneself.

Why Become Unnecessary?

Besides the obvious succession issues that this state provides there are some other significant benefits:

  • The Lone Warrior Hero is a myth that negatively impacts family relationships and health
  • Truly developing others to their own peak can be fun
  • Today’s competitive advantage comes from teams with shared vision and mutual loyalties
  • Teams equal shared burdens
  • No one is infallible but teams strengthen and safeguard, getting us closer to infallibility
  • Intentionally becoming unnecessary is a courageous and mature act of caring that is far more admirable than being a marginally successful Lone Warrior Hero
  • Intentionally becoming unnecessary protects and develops THE BUSINESS by focusing on what is needed for ITS success over the ego of the Lone Warrior Hero

How to Become Unnecessary.

This act requires a significant change of thinking for most people. It means intentionally shifting credit and prestige to others so that, over time, you are less and less visible but more and more successful.

Without using names let me tell you about a personal hero. I doubt many of you know this gentleman and I am confident most of you have never heard of him. But starting about 35 years ago this man began orchestrating a series of events that led to his firm owning about 2/3 of the funeral homes in his state. This sweet-natured self-effacing man had a vision. Unlike many, he had no real need for fame but was quite content to engineer things from behind the scenes. I am aware that many in our profession believe his partners orchestrated this success story but the reality is different from the appearance. As a result, this firm is not only successful by any definition it will be sustainable for several generations. He laid a cultural groundwork that will long outlive him.

What can we learn from him? The first is that we must have a long term vision. If your reason for becoming unnecessary is your personal leisure or your own fame and financial success it will be much harder to achieve. Second, by hiring people “better” than himself he was able to achieve far more than he could have individually and, finally, he is leaving a legacy for his future. Not a legacy of fame, but a legacy of achievement. Frankly, that’s what I want. Don’t you?

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