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What Position Are You Playing?

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Imagine you’re watching your favorite team play, and you see the coach go to the sideline to be subbed into the game. What would your thoughts be?

  • Why does the coach feel they need to be playing in the game?

  • Why don’t they have a player who can be in that position?

  • How will they be able to coach the team effectively from the field?

  • How much energy will they have left when they return to the sidelines?

As leaders, we often have the understanding (think of Bill Belichick trying to fill the shoes of Tom Brady) and possibly even the skills (think of Deion Sanders leaving the sideline to replace a collegiate-level cornerback) to do the work of a position that is not ours.

This often makes it easy to take over a task or even an entire project ("it will just be easier for me to do it"). But when this happens, it ultimately hurts the team as the "players" miss opportunities to learn, be challenged, and succeed. And the leader misses opportunities to delegate, coach, and assess the team’s skills.

In leadership, the analogy of a coach subbing into the game serves as a poignant reminder of the temptation to personally undertake tasks within our expertise. Reflecting on this scenario prompts us to question our motives, acknowledge the capabilities of our team, and recognize the potential drawbacks of assuming roles that others could fulfill. Effective leadership lies not just in possessing the skills but in empowering others to contribute and grow. As leaders, let us resist the allure of stepping onto the field when our role is on the sidelines. By fostering a culture of delegation and trust, we provide our team with invaluable opportunities to learn, face challenges, and triumph while simultaneously honing our own abilities to guide, coach, and assess from a strategic vantage point.

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