The deeper reason leaders don’t delegate…
When last week preparing a workshop on delegation for a group of high-level leaders, I discovered something deeply profound. As always when (first time) preparing a workshop like that, I was reading multiple research articles on the topic. Specifically, research articles on why at least half of all leaders seem to struggle with delegating.
It seems that especially two elements explain why leaders have a hard time letting go of tasks and responsibility. And of course, by delegating more, leaders (incl. project managers) would free up more of their precious time, allowing them to lead better, and more. In the process, their employees and co-workers would grow and develop.
The first reason why leaders struggle with delegating is quite simple and obvious: Leaders should become much better at planning, so that their work would be less dominated by firefighting. Having been a project management and leadership consultant for many years, this is mostly achieved by taking the time to do it. I.e., by prioritizing the planning element. But the lack of planning only to a limited extent explains the delegation challenge. The other reasons leaders have a hard time delegating goes deeper. Much deeper.
When I am having 1:1’s with leaders where we talk about the content of (some of) their nocturnal dreams we go that deep. Because that is what dreamwork does. When talking about our dreams, we often get to talk about something truly important about ourselves that we wouldn’t otherwise get to talk about.
Something about our behaviour and thinking that is deeply unconscious to us.
Since our dreams provide direct access to that major part of our behaviour happening totally unconsciously (some would say up to 95% of what we do), our dreams also reveal our true, innate drivers. Drivers that are not always that pleasant to face head on, which is one reason many are afraid of taking up dreamwork. Leaders like Barack Obama and Winston Churchill are/were known for consulting their dreams, their unconscious intelligence, for becoming better, much more self-aware leaders.
Now do understand this: Unless you take the time to truly work with yourself as a leader, to better understand what is truly driving you, you will per definition have a very hard time being the leader you want to be. You will also have a hard time understanding why you sometimes have difficulties in reaching your goals. For instance a goal of getting the next promotion.
For Obama and Churchill there was one underlying driver. A driver that for many years remained deeply unconscious. A driver that led them to work really hard for no apparant reason other than “that’s what you need to do to get far.” But it was a driver that was later understood and dealt with through paying attention to, and understanding, their nocturnal dreams. The deeply unconscious, unrecognized driver? A deep fear of not having what it takes. Of not being good enough. For Obama and Churchill coming out of an unrecognized need for acceptance and approval by their father (yes, full acceptance by our parents is still relevant for many of us – men and women).
And yes, the second and most important reason leaders find it hard to delegate is a deep underlying fear of losing power. Of losing control and influence. Of losing the status that their role is giving them. For instance; what if my employee ends up solving this task better than I am able to? Yes, what if. I guess you then get a glimpse of your true role as leader; the ability to let your employees take ownership, of them growing and developing. And you at the same time growing as a leader (and as a human being), by letting go of control.
Further, imagine a leader truly not afraid of losing her or his job (and the status and power that comes with it). This is a leader who truly understands that her/his worth as a human being does not come from the title or the influence and status that she/he has. I.e., our true worth does not come from something outside ourselves. It comes from within. If most of your feeling of worth comes from your title, the money you make, the place you live, the car you drive, then you are a leader standing on a very fragile foundation. Because you can lose all of that overnight.
If you listen to what your unconcious intelligence, your dreams, tell you every single day (or rather night), you will know that you are in fact good enough. Irrespective of “how much”, or “how little”, you have achieved in the outside world. You will know deep down that you are more than your job.
The whole article in its essence?
Dear leader. You are here to lead. Not to defend your ego. Letting go of your ego is however extremely difficult, if not impossible. But tuning in on your dreams can get you quite far in dismantling it.
P.s. Tuning in on our unconscious intelligence does an array of things for us. Much higher creativity in innovation and problem solving. Better thriving through deep personal insight, just to name a few things. Would you and your colleagues like to learn how to better utilize your unconscious intelligence? Do reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org (or read more at https://michaelrolsen.com, and in Danish at https://michaelrohde.dk)