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No more mama bear please!

I want to tell you about my client whom I call “mama bear”. She is a lovely, warm and kind person. She has so many great leadership qualities. She really cares about her team and their success. She creates great opportunities for team building. She is always there to coach and mentor her team.

The problem is that “mama bear” feels like she needs to take care of everyone. She feels like she needs to solve all of their problems. This means that “mama bear” is totally over worked and overwhelmed. She also has become a bottle neck as all decisions are currently being filtered through her.

While “mama bear” is doing so many things right, there are some critical things that she needs to change to be more successful as a leader. To start, she needs to recognize the ways in which her behaviour is hindering her team and holding them back. I explained to “mama bear” that she needs to let go and start letting people solve their own problems. She had an “aha” moment and told me, “Vanessa, I thought I was helping my team but realize now that I was not allowing them to be independent.”

Through our conversation, I shifted “mama bear’s” perspective from a model of “leader takes care of it all” to a “shared leadership” model.

If you recognize yourself in “mama bear”, it is time for some shifts. Here is what the shared leadership model means:

  • Decision making is shared
  • Problem solving is collaborative
  • Ownership for running meetings is shared
  • Mentorship and coaching is shared amongst the leader and senior team members
  • Delegation is discussed and determined in partnership with your team
  • People are encouraged to take initiative

Even if you already implement some aspects of the shared leadership model, think about the ways in which you tend to exert too much control. It could be over a system, process, structure or meeting for example. Consider how you can give your team more ownership over their goals and projects. Finally, consider what you can do to practice even more of a shared leadership model.

Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

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