When Leaders Should Let the Team Lead

By: Jeff DeHart, Partner, DeWinter Technology

I just witnessed Steve Kerr, Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors, do something I have never seen a professional coach do- hand the playbook over to the players.

Tonight Golden State's senior players were given the opportunity to play call the game's offensive and defensive strategy they would use to pummel the outmatched Phoenix Suns. In an unorthodox move, Steve Kerr once again demonstrated best-in-class leadership by empowering his players in a way that challenged them to stay engaged, accountable, and have a greater stake in their ultimate success or failure. For the 2x World Champs, this is something that has seemed to be their biggest struggle during the 82 game journey to the playoffs.

Empowerment = Engagement, Accountability, Success. It doesn't require a world championship team like the Warriors to do this. Most teams are a mix of junior to senior players that have their own individual strengths and weaknesses, perspectives and experiences. Each person could mean valuable innovation, unique and diverse perspective to an organization. But they cannot do any of it unless they have the trust and empowerment given to them by their leadership to make it happen.

As a new leader growing a future world-class powerhouse staffing firm, tonight reminds me of a cultural tenet that I want to continue to promote on my team: to Act Like an Owner. A nod to my days working on the Exec Recruiting team at LinkedIn, 'Act Like an Owner' was a cultural and operational schema for the workplace designed to promote innovation, inclusion and accountability through individual empowerment.

In my role today, I manage a small, but kick ass team of recruiting and business development professionals brought together with the sole purpose of providing the highest possible level of technical staffing quality and service to our clients we serve. I have hired top performers, and I have hired future top performers. Each person on the DeWinter Technology team works towards this common goal as a company. But, each person is also responsible for their own 'book' of business. This is the number of consultants and clients they work directly with, that have entrusted them with their goals and successes by agreeing to work with them.

These are consultants that are willing to change their lives and choose the job opportunities we present to them. These are clients that are willing to stake their professional success (or at least project success) and budget on the services we promise to provide. It is a humbling and awesome responsibility and a privilege I am perpetually grateful for.

Whether you hire seasoned pros, inexperienced 'future top performers' new to the workforce, or like many leaders have a team comprised of both, your goal as a leader should be a healthy combination of two things: 1) making sure your people have the tools and training to be successful, and 2) EMPOWER YOUR PEOPLE.

The best thing I can do as a leader is to get out of the way of a capable group of people and give them the platform to do great things. I need to lead by example, but also sit back and let others take charge because it will make them better, and it might make me better too. When a team is firing on all cylinders, this empowerment will pave a clear path to continued success. This is how we will grow, this is how we will set new records for performance.

When a team is not performing however, this empowerment can be even more critical to success. You can't want it more than your team. They have to want it for themselves. Once your players all know the plays, make them accountable for their own success by handing them the playbook.