Good Leadership Means Working Less

Sep 01, 2020


For many managers and project leaders that I know, the idea of a quiet evening at home drinking beer on the sofa or a nice eight hours of uninterrupted sleep seems impossible. Personally, I can relate to this too. A lot of us know how it feels to sacrifice these luxuries in the name of work, thinking that our input and presence is indispensable. And honestly, it is a bit flattering to believe that without our input and knowledge, business would suffer or our team would be lacking focus and direction.

These beliefs can lead us to act as the center point through which ideas, influence, and information flows. Again and again I see leaders of small teams fall into the same trap. They are in charge of a small group of people, say five. They think five is a small number and leading this group with a hands on approach is manageable. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is incorrect, and even worse, very bad for business.

I argue that in situations like these, the leader is not looking at the situation correctly. You do not have to manage five people, instead the number you have to worry about is ten. Before you ask if these people have multiple personalities, I assure you that they do not. The number ten comes from the total number of possible connections between the team members. To explain, let’s start with a group of two. There is only one possible connection in this group, one person talking to another. Add another person to the group, and number of connections grows to three (person A can talk to person B and C, and person B can talk to person C). As the group grows in size, so does the number of connections. In fact the number of connections grows so rapidly, that with a moderately sized team of 35, the total number of connections is 595!

If you are the type of leader who places him or herself as the center connection, meaning that you are the source for direction and information, you will find yourself with very little time for TV and quality sleep, as you are undoubtedly faced with an impossible task.

The solution? Create a team dynamic where you as the leader give direction initially, which will then result in a common focus among team members. This common focus will open the door to the team maintaining the direction themselves and eventually creating new direction themselves, allowing you to finally catch some beauty sleep.

The process of removing yourself as the central connection and instead creating a team dynamic where direction is maintained and created among team members themselves is examined in my upcoming book, Facilitative Leadership, which is due out later this year.

Pepe Nummi