I work with many driven leaders. They are driven to excel, driven to achieve, and driven to lead successful lives. I admire their dedication and commitment. I also remind them that they don’t always need to be driving. Often the most successful people are those who know when to ride in the backseat.
And while that can mean they are being chauffeured to work (some executives are so they can begin their day on calls, reading or taking meetings in the car.) It also means that they know when to let go, step aside and empower others to take the wheel.
It can be difficult to let go of setting the pace, executing every twist and turn and determining when to refuel. Yet when you are not driving, you have more space to plan the route, evaluate progress and imagine better destinations. You don’t have to be as alert in the moment. You can conserve energy for greater complexity, challenge, and opportunity.
It’s important for leaders to examine where it is better to leave the driving to others. Here are some tips for recognizing when the backseat is a better place to be:
- Notice things that you’ve been doing for a long time. Are they something that could be done by someone else in a different way? Change is the only constant in our lives. The more we accept that and cerate the space for new or different, the more likely our contributions and skills will stay fresh.
- Recognize things you are responsible for yet aren’t especially talented at. We all have aspects of our jobs or family life where effort is needed, yet the activity isn’t really in our wheelhouse. Seek out someone more gifted in that lane to do that work.
- Be proud of your “secret sauce” and share it with others. Sometimes we can be too good to drive. If you’ve mastered something, take time to teach others and give them the chance to take charge of the initiative fully to maximize their learning. Don’t be a backseat driver.
- Get real about progress. Identify areas where you and your team just aren’t experiencing the results you want or need. This could be a good place to invite an expert in to lead progress or to share new skills, insights, or energy for a season.
While driving can be fun, often better views are found in the passenger seats. Taking in experiences from new vantage points leads to the better thinking and creativity that drives better results. As counterintuitive as it seems, letting go can often be the best way to level up.