There is a saying that many leaders believe in, whether they want to admit it or not: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Or to express it in a way that even fewer leaders would admit to: “If you don’t want to get in trouble because things didn’t turn out right, then you better do it yourself.”

Of course, no one wants to “get in trouble.” Everyone wants to be successful all of the time. What’s wrong with that?

The challenge occurs when a leader is also focused on developing the people on his team. To help people grow, we must give them room to make mistakes, and we must respond well when those mistakes are made.

As Kris Carr, a New York Times best-selling author and wellness activist, says,

Sometimes our need to control and micromanage everything erodes our confidence in ourselves and others. The truth: People are much more capable than we think. A hearty dose of trust is often what’s needed to unlock the magic.”

So, how do we strike the balance between our desire to avoid “getting in trouble” with our boss when our work group makes mistakes and developing people by giving them room to grow (and to make mistakes)?

We don’t.

I submit that good leaders—those who influence people to good outcomes—are not only willing to take the responsibility for the mistakes made by those who “work for them,” but they continue to develop those people by resisting the temptation to take work away from them when they “fail.”

In other words, a good leader would rather take the heat from her boss so that people in her group can grow, rather than micromanage people out of learning opportunities so that she can live in peace with her boss.

In so doing, good leaders not only inspire trust; they develop better performers, they help grow leaders and ultimately they improve the performance of their organization.

For those of us who are senior leaders, we can help create an environment that fosters development…

  • when we hold our leaders accountable for the mistakes they and their work groups will inevitably make without going on a blame hunt
  • when we use mistakes as learning opportunities, not punishment opportunities
  • and when we help leaders perform their responsibilities even better after a misstep, rather than take those responsibilities away.

Greg Wallace is the Chief Operating Officer for HRock Church in Pasadena, Calif. He loves teaching and helping others pursue their life’s passion. He is passionate about developing leaders, building organizations and helping people and groups thrive in the midst of change.