We live in a culture where success is oftentimes measured by the number of hours you work; where work-life balance is sacrificed for the promise of additional growth opportunities. This is true of employees looking to climb the ranks at their companies and within their respective industries, and it is also true of leaders.
There is a time and place when a growing company will demand extended working hours or a more hectic schedule, but this is not—and should not be—the permanent reality of your working life. A CEO will frequently need to wear different hats and be actively involved in their company’s internal processes, but there is a telling difference between being busy and being productive. One mistake a leader often makes is not reimagining their role and purpose once their company becomes more sustainable and transitions out of its early stages. In other words: if you are still acting in the same capacity as you did when you first started the company, you are doing a disservice to yourself, your team, and your company.
That is, of course, not to say that you will not be busy—as CEOs, we know that a full schedule is just part of the job. But where you focus your efforts and how you use your time becomes even more important. We have all seen what happens to companies that embrace complacency after years of unrivaled success. Take Kodak and Blockbuster, for example. They failed to innovate in their ever-changing industries and are now two more mega-corporations laid to rest in the business graveyard. Leaders, too, can become complacent in their roles. If you do not continue to feed your hunger for innovation and new opportunities, you will gradually erode the energy and vigor that got you where you are today.
What should your new role look like? This is entirely dependent on your particular passions and will vary across leaders. Yet, one thing will always be true: you cannot pursue other opportunities and invest in yourself without hiring a great team. A company’s backbone is both its leaders and its employees, so it is important to hire effectively—because who you hire matters. If they are a good fit socially, it may spark morale, but hinder quality. If they are experienced, it may enhance strategy, but create a strained environment. Once you find that perfect balance and build a determined, powerful team, empower them.
At Delmec, we empower our team by demonstrating trust, listening to their needs, and cultivating their strengths. They are leaders, not followers; we know that their growth must exist independently of myself and Delmec’s other leaders. When the team runs autonomously, it gives me an opportunity to be more selective about how I spend my own time—and there is nothing wrong with that. It is important that leaders spend time developing themselves, or else they will never evolve.
Leaders often excuse not pursuing their own professional development on limited free time or because their day-to-day responsibilities are too demanding. If that is the case, it seems like the obstacle could be your leadership style. A shortage of free time and too many nagging priorities could be the consequences of micromanagement or a lack of trust for your team. You may not consciously be aware you are doing it, but it seems that in these scenarios the leader is taking on the brunt of responsibility rather than delegating it to their capable team members.
As a leader, there should be no cap to your knowledge and growth. While your company and employees will always be a top priority, so should your professional and personal progress. Redefine your role within your company to give your employees more space while you refocus your goals—whether that is working on a new project, expanding your skill set, or trying to grow yourself in other areas in your industry.