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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Relinquish Control

This is not how I prepare to go out to dinner or see a client, but it is what happens when I give my daughter my face for Halloween!

“Do what you want. I support anything you can dream up!”

I am the mother of two teenage girls. My leadership expertise comes in handy much of the time. For any of you with girls, you may relate - makeup and fashion are front and center. I love watching them create outfits, navigating the balance between the “popular looks'' and adding their creative flair. I make a point of rarely interjecting unless belly buttons are showing!

With this new talent invariably comes the realization that their mom is not staying on trend. They use my face as a canvas, subtly enhancing and brightening to bring out the best features while minimizing others. I see the joy and excitement as I sit down with a clean face, giving them full carte blanche to create to their heart's content.

Why do I do this? Not because I want a new face of makeup, but because it brings them immense joy. It is that simple.

My job is to get out of the way, ask questions, show curiosity, and encourage their exploration.

How does this relate to leadership? Well, sometimes you have to let go and allow others permission to explore their ideas, expand their talent, and use the team as a canvas for innovation and creativity.

You are leading by being the very subject of their discovery.

Allow for mistakes and push the boundaries of creative thought. Find moments when the stakes are low (like my face) and let go. Ask the team to guide you and just receive what’s delivered. No debates, no guardrails, just “yes.”

Curiosity of all that is unsaid is poised to be revealed.

Why is this difficult?

The need to control the narrative and timeline: While it is tempting to convince, persuade, or dictate in hopes of efficiency, what you sacrifice is trust and long-term solutions.

I stress the word, “long-term” because leadership requires a commitment to the long game. Shortsightedness brings momentary relief, however, it has drawbacks: 

  • Your team will begin to disconnect since they know you will invariably do what YOU want regardless of their perspective.

  • Innovation is stifled as new ideas go unrecognized.

  • You’re leading from a place of ego and not in service to your team, which is palpable and demoralizing to others.

  • You will create a team of followers and not creative thinkers.

  • Your team will not feel acknowledged, heard, valued, or part of something bigger (the four pillars that every person desires).

As a leader, a common misconception is that you are “expected” to have all the answers. The truth is that as leaders develop confidence, they quickly realize that “leaning into their own “not-knowing” allows them to maintain their credibility and increase their leadership effectiveness.” This Forbes article notes that there are four specific dangers associated with assuming that you know it all. Seems logical. So why does this feel counterintuitive?

Most people are so concerned with “what might happen” or the fear of not having control that they avoid the situation at all costs. The thought of letting go and trusting the team feels daunting and unpredictable.

The question is: What do you value more - your team or your own comfort?

Strategies to implement: 

  1. Pose a problem to the team without having a solution. Then, sit back and listen to their ideas. This allows for curiosity and conversations that are void of judgment. Discuss this new approach with your team and the hesitation you are feeling. Humanize your leadership.

  2. Create boundaries: Clarify the non-negotiables (time, money, resources, etc.) from here and then open up the discussion. Creating guardrails will allow for structured creativity.

  3. Proactive thinking and planning: Prepare for the “worst case scenario” and have a plan in place should that occur. Oftentimes, it is the unexpected we fear most.

  4. Share YOUR thoughts last. (Simon Sinek - Leaders Eat Last) You are persuasive and hold power. Sharing your ideas first will limit others from expressing opposing views or wild creativity. Speak last or better yet, just listen.

Our ultimate job, as a leader, is to gather great talent, strategize the higher vision, and orchestrate the wisdom in the room.

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