Why leaders can sometimes be better handymen than team members

This isn't always the case, but I've noticed it often enough to be baffled by it.

As a leader, there are many times when a team member will come to me with a problem and I find that I am able to solve it.

Weirdly this happens in areas where I do not consider myself to be especially skilled: fixing mechanisms in roll-up banners, budgeting, plumbing, solving a last minute scheduling drama.

I often solve the problem and feel secretly chuffed about how awesome I am. And then I feel like a fraud. Something's not right. I'm not that awesome at this. So what's going on here?

I think the reason is that as the leader, I'm often more invested in the solution than the team member:

  • I'm ultimately responsible for the budget and so don't want to pay for a new banner.
  • I see the value of this event for the big picture and so am very invested in it coming off well.

And this extra incentive drives me to try just that little harder to fix something. It's not that I'm actually a better handyman. I'm just more desperate.

This observation provides a fresh angle in on delegation and empowerment. The goal of leadership development and delegation is to build a degree of ownership that drives my team members to care about the outcome as much as I do and so go that extra step to keep things on track.

If I can help my team members feel the pressure to manage our financial resources well, so that we can stretch to put on a new staff member, or not be hobbled down the track by a budget in deficit, then they will more likely work hard to keep costs down.

If I can help them really see how crucial this event is for the momentum of the ministry, then they will push hard to make it work.

Cool huh?

And that's why I need to resist the urge to be the mighty Mikey handman. Because if I Bob The Builder every problem that comes my way, I miss out on opportunity to build ownership among my team, for the sake of a little ego boost.

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