Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Are You An Obstacle?


"If your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more, and to become more, you are a leader." —John Quincy Adams

A speaker challenged a group of business executives: "If you left today, who would lead your organization and how would they do?" In most cases, there was no clear successor; and even when there was, the executive doubted that person's ability. For Charles, CEO of a mid-sized professional services company, it was a wake-up call. He had focused on growing the company rather than developing people. He texted his leadership team: "If I got hit by a truck today, what would concern you most?" Interestingly, his recovery from the accident wasn't on their list. Their concerns were compiled and acted upon. A year later, Charles took a 30-day sabbatical. When he returned, his team joked that things ran better without him.

Even if that wasn't true, clearly the company was stronger because it did not need him for routine operations. It may seem paradoxical, but your organization also would be stronger if it didn't need you for day-to-day matters. Instead of being indispensable in the production machine, your role as a leader is to build the team's skill and knowledge. Furthermore, the proven ability to develop others is an asset in getting your next promotion.

One obstacle to people development is managing at too low a level. Heavy-handed control over operations retards development and may push the best people to leave. A surprising number of mid-level executives cite their boss as a factor in performance shortfalls and production disruptions. Those bosses typically under-communicate, micromanage, and do work themselves rather than teach the right person how to do it. After the boss himself, the most frequently cited organizational factors that adversely affect performance are:

  • Overlapping or vague job responsibilities
  • Lack of quantitative performance goals and actionable feedback
  • Inefficient processes or failure to follow them consistently
  • Outdated technology

Acknowledge that some things you do may impede development of your people and get in the way of them delivering top performance. When you grow yourself in this way, you provide room for your people to grow as well.

Dick Stieglitz is a business consultant, author and speaker who works with companies and government agencies to change the way they do business. His books include Taming the Dragons of Change. This post first appeared in his newsletter The Change Challenge.

(Image via dim4ik-69/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.