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Lucky you are not good at everything

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Why delegation is at the core of leadership

It was pretty obvious watching the Rugby World Cup: some players are hopeless at some things and really good at others.

It’s the same for most team sports. You don’t have to be into rugby to get this. In fact you don’t have to be into sport at all. Bear with me.

There are two parts to a rugby team: forwards and backs. Forwards are the chunky ones who often don’t look athletic. Many have no necks. A famous forward once said rugby is one of the few games where fat people can compete at an international level.

Backs are athletic. They’re fast, agile, and usually lean. According to some, they are even better looking. Maybe.

Forwards and backs are not good at each other’s job. The forward’s job is to get possession of the ball. Once they do that, they pass it to the backs who do all the flash stuff. Sometimes, the forwards score out of sheer grunt, but most of the time it’s the fast guys in the back line.

In the game I watched – England vs Australia – all points, on both sides, were scored by backs. The captains of both teams were forwards.

Not being good at some things is a key to leadership.

Why is that?

It’s not that complicated. First is the obvious. There is no point struggling with something you are not good at when someone else will do a better job. Get them to do it. Hiring people who are better than you will supercharge team momentum.

Once you’ve done that, you have time to stand back and see how the strategy is working. You can’t do that when you are deep in the minutiae of something you are not good at.

Next, it means you are not too busy to give your best when it’s needed. Whatever your actual skills are, when they’re needed, you can go ahead and shine.

If you do these things, you are practising delegation. For that, read management. One of the best managing directors I knew always had a clean desk. When asked how he did it, he said “when a piece of paper lands in my in-tray, I try to work out who is the best person to handle it”. There we go. Management. For that, read leadership.

Raise the bar

If this all sounds a little strengths-based, it’s because it is. People are inspired by authentic people. You are at your most authentic when you do what you do best.

How do you know what you do best? It’s the things you get on with. With weaknesses, I procrastinate, often just putting off decisions. If I hand it over to someone good in that area, they make a quicker decision. It’s usually a better one and we all move on.

I always make a point of honestly thanking that person. But when you do that, who gets thanked for leading a great team?

That would be you.


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