When DIY Leadership Gets in Your Way

Let’s face it. There are times when it’s best to “do it yourself.” You could or should delegate, but who has time to fix the mess on the backend?

I mean, if you can do it smarter, cheaper, faster, and right—then just DIY. Or at least that’s how your gut tells you to lead.

If you haven’t felt this tension in a while, get yourself an intern. I remember the first time I brought a capable young leader under my wing. What a wake-up call that was. Initially, I couldn’t wait to have more hands to lighten the load. I was ready to pass on some hard-earned leadership lessons and hit the trail at full speed side-by-side with this young buck. But within the first week, I realized having an intern actually brought more work to my plate not less. My office was flooded with lofty ideas, simple questions, and innocent observations. That’s when I let DIY leadership get in the way. I took on way too much because I believed the lie that “do it yourself” was my only way forward.

Over the years I’ve let myself get sucked into “do it yourself” leadership for all kinds of reasons. Deep down I know it’s better to invest in others or welcome help, but instead, I take the DIY route when I don’t think it’s worth getting someone else involved. Perhaps thoughts like these have tempted you into DIY leadership too:

  •  It’s too complicated to explain.
  • Other people are busy.
  • It’s such a small task.
  • It won’t get done if I don’t do it.
  • I’m the one responsible.

There’s some truth to these split-second thoughts, but it’s not the whole truth. You’re in dangerous territory as a leader when misguided reactions become axioms. This is precisely when DIY leadership gets in the way. Rather than stick to making your best contribution, you end up doing anything and everything yourself. (Sound familiar?)

It may serve you in the short run, but you’ll know DIY leadership is in the way when your ego goes into high gear, fear keeps your fists clenched, or resentment starts piling up. To counteract this, you can choose to recalibrate your thinking whenever “do it yourself” seems like your only way forward.

Let’s revisit the five thoughts above so you can keep DIY leadership from getting in your way:

When it’s too complicated to explain…
This is the perfect opportunity to get all that’s rattling around in your head on paper or a whiteboard. Map out your thoughts and steps that need to be taken before deciding if you’re the one who needs to do it.

When other people are busy…
Just because your schedule feels full doesn’t mean that’s true for others. Unless you ask, you’ll never know what kind of margin they have available of if they’d be honored to help out.

When it’s such a small task…
No one is above running an errand or cleaning up around the office, but they need to know why it matters or it can feel like a waste of time. Nail down your reasons for why a task or project is meaningful and then invite others to contribute to the cause.

When it won’t get done if I don’t do it…
Keep a running list of ways you’re stepping up to take care of ongoing issues. Sort through which one’s bother you and why. Then talk with the team you lead or the team you’re on about how you can solve these common challenges together. It’s possible no one knows you’re picking up the slack.

When I’m the one responsible…
It’s true, you’re ultimately responsible as the leader but that doesn’t mean you’re the sole owner or doer. As a macro-manager you can avoid falling into the DIY leadership trap by calling others into the adventure you’re on. If you want your “do it yourself” list to become both shorter and more substantial, you need to a remarkable team. It turns out there are more people who want to make a consequential contribution than you thought. And, they’re waiting for a leader like you to coach them as co-owners in a way that doesn’t let DIY leadership get in your way.

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