written by Courtney Lynch

My son is passionate about soccer and a talented player. His ability to play began catching the notice of scouts at age 9, today he’s 14. Last month he moved several states away to play soccer and attend high school at an academy. As you can imagine, allowing him to leave home at such a young age was a big decision. The entire journey has been about letting go for love. I love my son; I miss him very much. Yet when your child is happy and thriving, positive emotions prevail.

When we really love someone or something, we can create the space for better to happen when we approach our passion with trust, faith, and openness. When we seek to control, react out of fear, or push our way of thinking on others, what we’re likely doing is holding on too tight. We often limit opportunities to flourish when we resist letting go. This is true in life and leadership.

If you’re holding on too tight, here are three signs that letting go may be your best course of action:

  1. You catch yourself ruminating. Reflection and brainstorming are helpful problem-solving tools. When you’re thinking about the here and now and working to improve the way forward, that’s healthy thinking. Yet if you notice your thoughts are crowded with fear, worry, and insecurity or you find yourself thinking about one thing over and over you’ve likely moved from productive ideation to ruminating. Brooding or intrusive stress-inducing thoughts are an indicator that letting go would be helpful.
  2. You have a strong opinion about what is right. Having strong opinions about simple things works. If you really want pizza for dinner, go for it, it’s a joy to have a simple desire satisfied. What’s important to pay attention to is when you have strong opinions about complex matters. Complexity means there are often many “right” choices, actions, and directions to pursue. The more complex a matter is, the more important it is to remain open to the perspectives of those you trust, the wisdom of best practices, and a variety of options. Leading through complex challenges often requires the flexibility and agility to shift as you gain new insights. Resist the urge to fall in love with one way of handling important decisions. Instead, stay open and explore options before and after each choice point, knowing you might need to change or adjust to keep progressing.
  3. Someone you care about needs space to grow. Trying to control another person isn’t leadership- it’s often fear or ego. Leadership is about influencing outcomes and inspiring others, it’s not about demanding, dictating, or compelling action. Letting go of the need to direct others is often one of the best ways we can support growth. Share clear intent, define what success looks like, and leave the how up to the person doing the work.

We’re often told that love is a verb. That inspires us to do, do, do for the people and projects we cherish. While action is often valuable, letting go and allowing ourselves and others to flourish is also a powerful act of compassion and leadership.

Founded in 2004, Lead Star is the company behind New York Times best-sellers SPARKLeading from the Front, and Bet on You. Lead Star supports professionals to reach new levels of success through an innovative coaching program, Year to Rise.