This is not metaphysical, spiritual or inspirational. It’s a fact:
Let go of powerand it is returned to you in ways you never imagined.
Step one: Let go.
If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve. – Lao Tzu
Two monks were returning to the monastery one day. It had rained earlier and there were puddles on the roadside. At one place a beautiful young woman stood, unable to cross because of a deep pool of water. The older monk lifted her in his arms and carried her to the other side, then continued on his way.
In the evening the younger monk came to him and asked, “Sir, as monks are we not forbidden to touch women?”
“Yes brother, we are,” the elder replied.
“‘Then Sir,” the younger monk continued, “how is that you lifted that woman?’
The elder monk smiled at him and answered, “I left her by the side of the road. You are still carrying her.”
–classic Zen story
The insight in this story is simple. Even when there is conflict, once the moment is in the past, it is not relevant in the now. Recrimination is not available in this context. It is for the greater good action was taken.
Step two: Service over self.
Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing the service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make, not only for our own happiness, but that of the world at large. -Mahatma Gandhi
Constantly reminding yourself that your service builds a great whole will keep your ability to let go forefront and powerful. While you may or may not reach the highest level of praise or public exposure, it is your contribution to others that matters in leadership.
Step three: Service to another.
There go the people, I must follow them for I am their leader. – Alexandre Ledru-Rollin
If you serve the organization and its culture, you are putting its interest above yourself. You lead when called by the people. You bring clarity over certainty even when you are not certain. You lead them, even if from behind.
Step four: Work to see a vision complete
Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
You have to be in the service of others for them to see your leadership. To take control, even if that is your will and desire. We are all trying to do something, it is for us to know and appreciate that and let go of the ego in it. Leading is the act of accomplishment, not personal gratification.
Step five: Pass the baton
“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on.” — Walter Lippmann
A time will come when you have to pass the baton. As leaders, our success is leading. A true leader can leave his command while his men carry on. A company is no different and there is no higher praise than doing this well.
The bottom line:
Go to work. Find out how you can let go of at least one pet project, trust another in execution. Trust but verify. Step aside and let them lead you to solutions. Don’t be afraid to lead people to fill in where others fail. Then, with confidence, find your right hand person / replacement and have them fully prepared and trained for your departure so you can empower others to carry on with confidence. All of this starts with you letting go.