Are YOU the Bottleneck?

Feb.23.2017 Leadership


2016-07-06.jpgHe was a strong, visionary leader and expert manager who navigated what is arguably one of the greatest organizational turnarounds in human history. A staggering number of people followed his leadership into an unknown and uncertain future. He was their instructor, counselor, and arbiter. He was a major player in their greatest successes. His name was Moses, and at the height of his leadership tenure, he unwittingly became the bottleneck to his followers’ growth and his own effectiveness. If what follows shines light on an area of challenge for you, know that you’re in good company.

It’s an unfortunate leadership paradox. As leaders, we can energize our company’s future health and performance; and yet, we are also uniquely positioned to stunt its growth. Ironically, the most capable leaders are also the most at risk of becoming bottlenecks, inadvertently confining, hindering, or impeding progress.  

As personally gratifying as it may seem to be the reputable “go-to” for solutions and key decisions, our “expert” status can demotivate the most talented subordinates. A leader who is too responsive and readily available becomes the easy default for matters employees can and should own themselves. Unchecked, this upward delegation creates an unhealthy dependency that robs employees of initiative, confidence, and accountability. Playing the “hero” diverts the leader’s time and focus away from mission-essential responsibilities and squanders growth opportunities.

Answering the Question: Are YOU the Bottleneck?

The tendency to become a bottleneck is rooted in problematic habits and practices. A few of the most detrimental are:   

  1. Habitually turning over employee decisions
    Personal pride or a desire to perfect others’ work leads you to overturn or modify anything they do. Employees will lose the desire to do the job themselves.
  2. Getting enjoyment from familiar tasks
    The pressures of leadership tempt you to escape into what you do well. You find personal satisfaction and identity in task fulfillment. Strategic leadership and good stewardship are deprioritized. This sets up a lose/lose future for everyone. 
  3. Presuming your staff won’t/can’t do it right
    People will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. Combined with weak team building, low expectations render the team incapable of independent action.

If any of this resonates uncomfortably with you, take some time in prayerful, honest reflection as to the root causes of your behavior. If you’re unsure, solicit constructive feedback from a trusted associate. Once formed, bottlenecks restrict the free flow of ideas, shut down the creative problem-solving process, inhibit task performance and personal growth, and perpetuate an unhealthy and exhausting culture of dependency. As the leader, you have a responsibility to your employees and yourself to keep the pathway clear.