Sometimes, the best solution is to do nothing at all

Much of my writing in the past week or two has been about being more intentional in your walk.  When I wrote those posts I always had in mind that action was one of the key ingredients in solving a problem or in approaching a situation.  In many cases this is true, but I will have to admit that there are times when taking action is the Wrong thing to do.  When would that be and why would I ever say that?  We will talk more about when the best action is little or no action.

The post referenced above talks about many ways to make your walk more intentional.  You might pursue a passion, something you really enjoy, or you could spend more time in a few areas versus spreading yourself too thinly among many areas.  Each of these areas involves taking a more active role.

As I gain more experience and see more issues develop around me (translate that into saying I am a little older) I see and read that many situations can best be addressed by taking a less active role and letting others involved in a situation take the lead and experience first-hand what needs to be done.  Let me propose a situation below and see if I can give a little more context to this principle.

  • I have worked on a number of boards and causes in my life and my first inclination is to take a very active role.  By doing so I typically end up in some type of leadership role.  This has occurred in organizations such as the YMCA, Scouting, and now with the ACE Mentor program here in Nashville.  All of these situations have been great learning opportunities for me.  One of the key learning points I have also gained along the way is this, “every time I take the lead in a situation it takes away a developmental opportunity from someone else on the team.”  By saying this I would not encourage you to always take a back seat, but if you are one of the more experienced members of a group, one who has a penchant for taking the reins like I do, there are times that you need to sit back and let someone else drive.  While I know I can lead a group or a board, by doing so it removes that opportunity from someone else.  This is a core principle of leadership and one that has become more clear to me as I advance in my career.  I have come to grips with the fact that my leading is not always the best solution.  Sometimes the best solution I can push for is to let someone else lead and then find a way to support, encourage or mentor them.  Others will do the same, but by doing something else active and letting others take the lead it can provide their developmental opportunity and also allow the group to move forward in a different manner.

When you read the paragraph above it should be very clear that I see my role shifting from one of active leadership to one of active support.  This does not mean that I do nothing, but it does mean that I don’t have to be the captain of the ship for the group to have a successful voyage.  Getting to this point has been a long journey for me and it has required a stronger sense of self awareness and also of self confidence.  There was a time in my life that I gauged my value by the number of roles I could handle at one time.  Covey address the terminology of role in the 7 Habits book and I’ll never forget when I sat down and listed all of the roles I had in my my 30’s.  The list got so long that I realized I was trying to do everything and accomplishing little.

I now see my role as one where I assess the situation and fill in where needed.  Some groups or teams need someone at the lead while many others have able leaders who can get things done.  Many of these leaders need a supporter, and encourager or a mentor to talk with and to bounce ideas off of when times get tough.  Having been there, I can fill that role and I now enjoy doing that with many of my volunteer roles and with many of my clients.

Taking action is essential when times present a critical issue to be addressed.  In many cases now I see that others can take this lead and I can sit back, assess, and support where needed.

This doesn’t mean I do nothing at all, but it does mean that I don’t have to be in the spotlight to be successful.

You too can approach leadership in this manner.  If you like to lead, that is good.  Remember that your leading can remove the seat from someone who needs that experience more than you.

Support, encourage and mentor where needed.  You will not only enjoy the ride, but you will provide a great experience for someone else who needs to understand the many facets of being in charge.