It is easy for business owners to fall into the trap of thinking they need to be the one in charge. In a recent planning session a large ownership group had to decide which roles various shareholders would fill. With seven owners this $5 million business did not have enough C suites for everyone to have a corner office. More important, they were keenly aware that their long-term strategic plan required current employees to move into leadership roles as soon as possible.
As we discussed various operational responsibilities one owner in particular stepped up to the plate and volunteered that the business needed him in a regional manager position more than it needed him in the VP slot. This meant he would be reporting to a non-owner who worked for him. But it also meant that the non-owner would have the position and the mandate she needed for the long-term plan to be successful.
As logical as this sounds it doesn't happen very often. Great leadership doesn't mean having all the answers and it doesn't mean calling all the shots. In small businesses owners are responsible for establishing direction and long-term vision, but it is okay, and many times even preferable, for these owners to hand over key responsibilities to others better suited to the task. Since most small businesses cannot afford purely passive owners this means shareholders still need to fill an operational role that requires them to be accountable to employees who work for them.
We often talk about servant leadership, and this is a prime example. Submitting to the org chart means putting yourself in a position to serve the organization. In setting aside his ego to do it this owner demonstrated humility and leadership at its best.