One crucial test of a good leader is what happens when he’s not around. When you’re away, do people carry on as usually or does everything grind to a halt? If things do slow down, it could mean you’ve let your people become too dependent on you.
Some people in supervisory positions are the world’s greatest as long as they are there to supervise their people. But let them leave their desk for a day or so and the place seems to come apart at the seams. Disputes flare up, decisions aren’t made, people slow down and start putting things off.
The things that happen – or fail to happen – while a supervisor is away depend a great deal on the way the supervisor normally operates. Some supervisors, unfortunately, enjoy having their subordinates completely dependent on them. They do all the important thinking, make all the major decisions – and sometimes the minor ones as well. As a result, when they’re not available, no one is prepared to assume leadership. Subordinates may be afraid to assume responsibility for decisions even in their own assigned areas.
A good supervisor, by comparison, acts more like a coach than a quarterback. He encourages people to take responsibility not only for the routine operation of their particular functions but the thinking as well.
He expects subordinates to bring him not merely problems but also their recommended answers. He reviews their thinking, checks their logic, raises objections which might not have occurred to them, and suggests alternatives they might not have considered. Basically, he helps them to do a better job – but he doesn’t try to do it for them. He is training them how to think about their problems. As a result, when he’s not around, they have a good idea how to carry on themselves, plus the confidence and courage to do so.
Sure – it’s flattering to the ego to be the kingpin, the indispensable man. But it’s also comforting to have the kind of organization where you can step out of the picture for a few days and be reasonably certain that things are running smoothly while you’re gone
The best way to make yourself a candidate for promotion is to train subordinates who can carry on without you.