After a successful performance of Beethoven’s violin concerto, the world-famous musician remarked, “I have a beautiful score, a magnificent violin, and a very fine bow. I can stand away after I’ve put things together. Great music, like most circumstances and fields in which effective leadership is required, demonstrates this truth. The best leaders are those who can step aside and let their followers take the reins when the time is right.
For instance, the late Thomas Roberts, SJ, archbishop of Bombay, is a great example of empowering leadership within the Catholic church. He realised that the church in Bombay would benefit from local leadership following Independence and thus removed his subordinate, Valerian Gracias, from his position as bishop. This set the stage for a peaceful transition of power and highlighted Cardinal Gracias’s talents as a leader. The majority of executives nowadays advocate leading by example. However, there may come a moment when they have to make way for others. The progress of civilization rests on the shoulders of those who came before us and paved the way for us to succeed.
By standing aside, we reveal our frailty as finite humans with our own strengths and weaknesses, despite any achievements we may have had. According to Anglo-Irish poet David Whyte, our only hope lies in how we learn to embrace our frailties as we grow older, in expanding our courage and kindness as we go closer to oblivion. Vulnerability, in his view, is not a flaw, a temporary affliction, or something that can be arranged to be avoided; rather, it is the fundamental, permanent, and inescapable undercurrent of our natural existence. There is no escaping our inherent frailty.
True leaders are rarely those that stand out the most. They do much of their job unseen, yet are crucial to the growth of those around them. Great leaders, according to Keith E. Webb, president of Creative Results Management, allow people to speak, make decisions, and take charge. It’s important to give people a chance to speak first in group conversations. Discussions are more productive when questions are asked rather than made.
To truly make room for others, we must also give them a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Responsibility and decision-making go hand in hand, so once you’ve given someone the authority to make a choice, don’t give it back to them or ask them to give it back to you. Webb argues that by doing so, we provide room for other people to take charge. Instead than handing out solutions to issues, wise leaders encourage their followers to find them on their own.
As a general rule, we pick up new skills through listening to instructions. Discovering things on your own is the more imaginative approach. When you share your findings with others, you speed up the learning process and reduce your own chances of discovery. On the other hand, when we devote ourselves to solving an issue, we get personally invested in finding an answer, and when we do, we take full credit for our breakthrough. Webb argues that when we are faced with a situation for which we do not have a clear solution, we are forced to become more creative in our approach to finding a solution.
Delegating authority strengthens individuals and communities, which in turn benefits society as a whole. We do this by setting down firmer emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physiological foundations for ourselves. When one makes way for others, he helps provide a firm foundation upon which future generations might construct a vibrant, diverse, and adaptable society.
Examining the leadership styles of countries with functional governments reveals commonalities, such as a willingness to delegate authority and the capacity for current leaders to move out once their terms are up. All of this is possible if we have the foresight to recognise that we are part of a large network of dependent beings. Therefore, when it is our turn to transfer the torch to the next person, we should all humbly do so.