A wise and effective leader possesses more than self-awareness; he also has a keen awareness of the team. More than a sense of his/her unique gifting, he/she has a sense of the people on the team, their gifts and potential. Team-awareness enables the leader to leverage the gifts of the team, to hand over responsibility to others, and to utilize “roving leadership.” I first read about “roving leadership” in Max Depree’s bookLeadership Is an Art, where he wrote:
No one person is the “expert” at everything. In many organizations there are two kinds of leaders—both hierarchical leaders and roving leaders. In special situations, the hierarchical leader is obliged to identify the roving leader, then to support and follow him or her, and also to exhibit the grace that enables the roving leader to lead.
Roving leadership means that the leader (on the org chart) asks another person to lead and then joins the rest of the team in following the leadership of the person tapped for the initiative or the responsibility. Leaders who enable a culture of roving leadership are:
Leaders who do not know the giftedness of those on the team are uncertain what initiatives (outside of traditional job descriptions) to hand to team members. And leaders who fail to know their team fail to leverage the full capacity of those on the team. There is a difference in caring about the team collectively and also caring about the individuals on the team. Those who care for the individuals are able to recognize each unique personality, gifting, and potential contribution, even outside the realm of written responsibilities.
Because no one person is the expert at everything, the leader who fails to practice roving leadership is filled with pride. He needs to be the one calling the shots and cannot imagine placing himself under (submitting) to the wisdom and direction of someone “who isn’t higher on the org chart.” Humble leaders are leaders who are willing to let others lead. They know they cannot possibly be experts in everything, and they joyfully submit to the wisdom of others on their team.
More than any conference or book, the daily work develops people. Experience really is the best teacher. Leaders who are equippers want others on their teams to mature in and through their experiences, so they readily give responsibility and authority away.
Recognize the roving leaders on your team. And follow them. It doesn’t diminish your leadership. It shows you to be more than merely self-aware.
This originally appeared at Eric’s blog.