The 'Good Enough' Leader
I’ve written before on one of my high school coach’s common moniquers:
“Ever notice how good enough, never is?”
I’m sticking with that in regards to our personal pursuit of excellence. If it’s about holding ourselves accountable, good enough doesn’t cut it. If it’s about living to our personal values, good enough doesn’t cut it. If it’s about how we treat others, good enough doesn’t cut it.
But a place where good enough is just right is in leadership.
We’ve developed, fallen may be a better word for it, into a society that attempts to protect those in our care from the imminent failures coming our way rather than preparing them to deal with it. We swoop in to save the day only to make the coming days that much harder.
Let’s think of it from a parenting standpoint. We have the two extremes, which I would argue make up the majority of the cases: the helicopter and the absent.
Helicopter parents are always hovering. They view it as their personal responsibility to be sure their child goes through life free of disappointment and failure. They are constantly involved and running to the rescue at the first sign of perceived struggle. They’re annoying at best, meddling at worst. I’m sure you know plenty of parents from this group.
The absent parent is just that, not there. They provide no structure, or guidance, for their child and have released themselves of the responsibility to nurture this young person into an adult that can positively contribute to society. They’re nowhere to be found when trouble sets in.
Why Should We Care?
From the outside it seems the absent parent is far worse than the helicopter parent, but it’s not the case. Both are equally damaging.
The parent that has it figured out is the good enough parent.
A good enough parent is going to be at the playground to see their child fall down, but resist the urge to run in and save the day. They allow their child to fall and deal with it. That’s good enough.
A good enough parent is going to be present and supportive of their child as they complaining about a teacher or coach that they don’t agree with, but resist the urge to intervene and overpower the relationship. They allow their child to struggle and deal with it. That’s good enough.
The exact same scenarios play themselves out in the leadership world.
The helicopter leader clips the wings of team members, robbing them of the opportunity to stretch themselves by swinging for the fences. These leaders quickly find themselves with a team full of in-the-box thinkers afraid of putting themselves out there or risking failure.
The absent leader is climbing the ladder and compromising the life-blood of leadership, the relationships, for another ring on the ladder. They are either so focused on themselves that they literally aren’t available to their team or they are so focused on societal success that their team doesn’t matter to them.
Similar to parenting, I believe these two descriptions also encapsulate the majority of leaders.
The good enough leader provides team members with what they need, not what they want. They allow the vagueness of their direction to be an asset rather than a hindrance. The good enough leader is there, but no one notices him. He prompts, suggests, and guides those he leads towards the vision of the team.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
There is nothing easy about being a good enough leader. Though it may seem like less work, it’s clearly a significant challenge considering how many people accept its effectiveness but fail to act on its execution. Here are a few thoughts that might help you with the process.
I think we are guilty of over-parenting, over-coaching, and over-teaching. Some, actually most, things are best when we figure them out ourselves. We are at our best, and our teams are at their best, when we strike the balance - when we’re good enough.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com.
We would love to know how we could help!
I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.