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Being a Good Leader Means Knowing When to Ask For Help

I am blessed with four of the best nieces and the best nephew around (and I will fight you on this).

Weekly, I have video chats with the two oldest ones, who are 13 (almost 14) and 11 (separately, because, teens/tweens).

The other day, 13 and I were talking about how she had to give a speech to her whole school (about 200 kids) because last year, she created a recycling program. Somehow, her school didn’t already have one, and she noticed that and decided they needed one. Uh, yeah, she’s amazing. So she rounded up some kids in her class, told them they could miss one lunch period a week, and figured out what she needs to do to make this happen. This year, her principal is going to oversee the club (I think because she knows it won’t continue after my niece graduates otherwise).

As we chatted on Sunday about the various tasks involved and the way her principal had made it sound to her that it was a one-woman show, I told her something that I’d learned the hard way – part of leading anything, whether it’s a committee or an organization, is finding out what people’s strengths are and then letting them do the things they’re good at. It also means that it’s okay to ask for help.

It’s a good reminder for all of us who are leaders, whether we have the title, manage a team, or lead by example. It’s VERY easy to believe that things are simpler when we do them ourselves – and sometimes, it IS faster in the short term to do something yourself than to teach someone else how to do it. And yes, other people may NOT do things the way that you would do them or in the same time frame, you’d like them done. Ahem (I’m talking to myself when I say that).

But there are two GREAT reasons to share the load  as a leader:

  • You’re empowering others to step into their strengths: When you allow people to shine, you’re really doing your job as a leader. You’ve identified the things that people are good at, and you’re letting them both shoulder the load and share in the benefits of a job well done. They have the opportunity to further hone their skills.
  • No matter what anyone says, this is not a one-person show: doing everything yourself will get you a one-way ticket to burnout. Ask me how I know. It may feel good in the short term to be asked “how does she do it all??” with that sense of awe and wonder – but the truth is that the answer involves late nights, a really weird diet that leads to a lot of heartburn, and very little interaction with your family and friends. And even THEN, you are getting help from somewhere, even if you’re paying someone to clean your house and deliver you food. We ALL need help and it is great for everyone to ask for it – it truly means success for everyone involved, and especially the project that you’re working on.

So take this gentle reminder from me, as I coached my bright niece, with her whole future ahead of her to ask questions and ask for help that this is just as relevant for grown-up leaders as it is for young leaders too.