Leadership Matters: The leadership see-saw

Effective leaders must learn to balance their team’s need for expertise with the need for high-level, strategic thinking and making connections across functional areas.

Leadership is a balancing act. Almost every quality of great leaders can be overdone, and their opposite can even be needed on occasion (except for integrity). For example, being outspoken is a great quality, but there are also times to hold back from giving your point of view so that others speak first. Great leadership requires constant adjustments in style and approach to get the best out of a broad range of people.

The one leadership balancing act we speak too infrequently about is the balance between knowing, doing and executing—in effect, being the go-to expert who can help the team solve any problem—and enabling, orchestrating and not knowing—something I call “spanning.”

In today’s knowledge economy, expertise is highly valued. Leaders use their expertise to gain credibility, to win the loyalty of their team and to solve team problems. Expertise-driven leaders add value because of their ability to provide answers, do the work, and control quality and risk. However, expertise-driven leadership keeps the leader from stepping out of the details, letting the team wrestle with problems, and taking a broader view. “Spanning” leaders add value by focusing on priorities and direction, by connecting across the organization and by tapping their broad network for information and perspective.


continue reading »