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Accelerate Leadership Effectiveness – By Giving Up

When you think about surrender, you don’t likely think of great leadership. People who surrender, lose, right? But in order to lead effectively, whether on the shop floor, the cube farm or anywhere else, there are things the best leaders can and do surrender. And when you surrender these things, you accelerate your influence and effectiveness as a leader. The dictionary tells us that surrender, as a verb, means things like:

“To yield possession or power”

“To give (oneself) up”

“To give up, abandon or relinquish”

These are hardly the ideas we connect with leaders we aspire to emulate… or it is?

Great leaders surrender…

The need to be right

The best leaders know that the goal is for the group to get to best result. It doesn’t have to be their idea, and in fact, even
if it is, it will be more effective when the group feels they own it. They also know that an “I told you so”, is never a valuable part of a coaching conversation.

The need to speak first

The best leaders know they will, in many situations, achieve more and get better results if they shut up. They let their teams talk, discuss and explore. They know that when they start talking they might inhibit the ideas and input from the team. So they remain quiet and wait.

The need to decide

Yes, there is a time for leaders to make decisions, but it isn’t all the time. Often, when leaders let go of their need to decide, others will make the same decision, if not a better one.

The need for credit

This is related to the need to be right, but adds an additional component. Leaders who usurp all the credit for the success of their team won’t have the support of their team very long.

The need for control

Often people aspire to leadership roles precisely because they want to have control. Yet how many micro managers and control-mongers do you want to follow?

Do you notice how all of these are framed as needs? Because we see them as needs, surrendering them feels like such a loss. But are they truly needs, or just strong wants? And while you may want these things (a lot), you likely want some other things too.

Great leaders want…

Greater results

The best leaders lead because they know they can’t do it alone. They want their team to hit their targets, make progress and have success.

Greater influence

Different than power, influence is granted by others, when they choose to listen, to follow and to change.

Greater satisfaction

Who doesn’t want greater satisfaction from their work? Great leaders get great satisfaction from the growth of their team members in both skills and confidence. They know they didn’t do it for them, but they get a deep satisfaction for their contribution.

Greater significance

Great leaders want to make a difference, leave a legacy and make things better. Few things feel better than knowing you have truly made a difference. Great leaders want these things. Highly effective human beings want these things. And if you want the last four things, you must surrender the first five. If you agree that the last four are more meaningful and important, it will be easier (though not necessarily easy) to let go of, abandon, or surrender the first five. Think of the last four as the reason to let go.

When you see this you have a glimpse of the great leader you can become.

What will you let go of? What will you surrender today?

By Kevin Eikenberry
Published with permission from the International Institute of Directors and Managers (IIDM) –


Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

“Our core purpose is to Create Great Leaders that will in turn build Great companies and develop Great teams.”