Leaders who surrender are not giving in, they are giving over. ~Kathryn Scanland They recognize that their successes are with and through others. They don’t need to take the glory with them when they leave; they intentionally leave it behind. ~Susan Debnam
For most people, the idea of “leaders surrender” is the opposite of what they would think or anticipate. If you’re leading aren’t you controlling, commanding, directing, and winning? Not surrendering?!
Lay Down Your Arms
Well, hopefully your organization is winning, but many times (and I’d argue most of the time), the organization wins because the leader surrenders. The most appropriate definition of surrender in this context is to lay down your arms. What are your arms? Author of Mine’s Bigger Than Yours, Susan Debnam suggests a list of traits that I believe fall into the category of what leaders need to surrender to be truly effective. Here are just a few “arms to lay down.”
Invincibility: They ignore cautionary words and take flagrant risks.
Sensitivity to criticism: They say they want teamwork but really want yes-men.
Lack of empathy: They crave empathy but are not empathic themselves. They can be brutally exploitative.
Intense desire to compete: They are relentless and ruthless in their pursuit of victory, often unrestrained by conscience and convinced that threats abound.
Tendency towards grandiosity: They over-estimate their own abilities.
Addiction to adulation: They have a constant and often petulant need to be told of their greatness.
Inability to learn from others: They like making speeches, telling, transmitting and indoctrinating, but are less open to hearing others’ views and suggestions.
Distaste for personal development: They don’t want to change and as long as they are successful, they don’t think they have to.
Leaders Surrender Through Self-Sacrifice
In my conversations with various leaders one of the aspects of leadership that frequently enters the discussion is self-sacrifice. Many people in leadership positions define self-sacrifice as giving up personal time or time with their family. What sacrifice really means in the context of leadership begins with the above list of traits. It’s not about patting yourself on the back because you never see your family or have no personal life. Sacrifice is about surrendering your need for self-admiration (being right, getting the credit, never failing, always having an answer, etc.).
Leaders who surrender are not giving in, they are giving over. They recognize that their successes are with and through others. They don’t need to take the glory with them when they leave; they intentionally leave it behind. They lead with bold grace.