Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I want to be redundant


“I do not understand how you had the time to get your real job done,” said Johanna after I had explained the significant improvements and awards the organization had won in the area of diversity and abilities awareness. My response was simple, “You have plenty of time to work collateral topics when your primary focus is on recruiting and developing people to be more capable and competent than yourself.”

The dialog created from a recent LiaV post (“Someone has to end it”), about how learning stops if you do the exact some job for too long, surfaced an interesting goal for leaders. Many agreed it was the role of the leader to develop the people and improve the systems and processes to the point that the leader actually became redundant.

While this seems like such a simple concept, it is also extremely risky. By definition it says that leaders must work themselves out of a job every couple of years. This is a very uncomfortable place to be so often. Leaders have to be very confident in their skills and contributions to become so vulnerable repeatedly. Those working for progressive leadership understand how this continues to happen. If not, leaders may not get the best assignment they deserve.

Do you believe it is the role of leaders to become redundant? have you seen a leader accomplish this goal?

59 comments:

Stuart Bishop said...

John, delighted to see this post - I have been espousing that philosophy (in those exact words!) for years, for myself and for all my reports and mentees.

I am proud to say that several of my current management team have been very successful with this, with their own roles looking very different now compared to when they took them up

Of course there is a degree of discomfort that comes with it, but I think the risks are overstated. If you're talented, then every task the team (or improved process) relieves you of creates a space that is naturally filled by new things. The business results that come from pursuing this idea will also speak for themselves, so far from exposing you to risk, the outcomes should create recognition and opportunity.

(And anyone without the necessary commitment will fail at the objective, by accident or design. They won't render themselves redundant...but they're likely to expose themselves to worse fates!)

Wim Stout said...

I agree with Stuard. Most of my recognicion is not what I have achieved individually but in a team. A global team or my own team of direct reports. If I can stimulate others in being more valuable to the organisation, I am appreciated form both sides, employees, colleagues and upper management. The students always have to outperform the master to ensure a solid future.

It is a nonwritten law (in my perspective) that a leader/manager is responsible to do what is best for the organisation and its employees.

This means giving others opportunities as well, let them grow, make yourself vulnarble, teach (and learn yourself).

A true leader is happy by other peoples accomplisments as well as his own. My father was my biggest example (as for many their fathers are). He was a true leader but stayed at the bottom of the ranks. He was proud of small and large accomplishments and to see others climing ranks while doing himself what he liked doing most; working with people and getting the best out of them.

While climing ranks myself, I try to keep the spirit of my father alive. It's not about being egocentric but doing what you should be doing. In a business environment it's team work, in a team the individual whomever he/she is needs to leave their ego at home. This includes employees, staf as well as management at all levels.

Make your star shine by polishing other's. True leaders will always be recognized. I hope I will be able to come close to the shadow of my father.

Tony Noe said...

While it is not a position, being redundant, that most go into leadership expecting or desiring. Once there the clear message that to move forward within an organization you must 'create' your replacement you begin to get the picture. The idea that you need to find a place every coupel of years to move into is not only the leaders task, but also the companies task if the leader has truly proven their value. HR has part of that responsibility also.
I expereinced a true leader that worked at making himself redundant by training his people to not need him. I admired his confidence and style. In that case the company failed, they let him go in a cost cutting season, since he was 'redundant'. He quickly found a new job and several left to follow him. So I believe he was doing the right thing and proved your point, in my mind.

Jim Mullner said...

I have seen the problems with the opposite philosophy and in many areas of systems and procedure development this paradigm is the correct thing to do. Give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish he can feed himself.

Ulrich Seufert said...

No..the role of a leader is to lead...A good leader doesn't become redundant as any good organization is in a constant state of flux due to ever changing market conditions. A leader, therefore, most constantly upgrade his/her skills to ensure that his/her organization doesn't get left behind i.e. becomes redundant..

A leader is like the captain of a ship... the crew may be able to work without the captian on a day to day basis..but if the ship is being sent to new ports or loaded with different cargo then some "leadership" is required to adjust to those everchanging circumstances.

Brian Kelly said...

A little humor on this note:

It's an absolute cardinal rule, for the survival of the entity and the mission... to train one's subordinate to do one's job... and to learn the job of one's superior.

Having said that, there is an old Irish expression; Place your hand into a bucket of water, stir it up as best as you can, have a real go. Now, pull your hand out quickly... the size of the remaining hole in that water, is the measure of how much you'll be missed.

Scott Roettger said...

Yes I think the role of a good leader is to become redundant. The best teams that I've worked on were ones where the leadership was flat and collaboration was high. Maybe this follows the idea that a leader needs to be a facilitator to provide the conditions and support needed for a team to be successful.

Sohail Khwaja said...

I don't believe it's an issue of redundancy.

A leader has to be greater than the sum of his/her team. A leader carries the vision for the team, coordinates the team members, monitors progress, deflects potential threats to the teams' success and plans the future while the team executes the current plan.

A leader is invaluable as long as his teams continue to be successful. A leader may not have the same skills as his team members, but his ability to bring all of these skilled people together as a cohesive team is invaluable.

We know there are political considerations where promotions are concerned, but in the long run, solid leaders do get recognized and promoted, within or without the current organization.

Dan Bell said...

Productivity and therefore organizational success begins and ends with Human Capital. Transformational leadership demands not only vision and the courage to execute that vision, but the ability to lead a talented workforce between paradigms. Aquisition of talent, the nurturing/mentoring of that talent and the courage to risk "redundancy" puts the organization into a system archetype of an upward spiral, a legacy and culture of success. In the book "Good to Great" by Jim Collins, he would call this the "hedgehog concept." This "redundancy" is the greatest gift a leader can give himself and his organization.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the redundancy statement. I am constantly training and mentoring my team-members on improvements and how to do their job better to eventually do my job, so that I, too, can someday move onward and upward. In the process, I am learning and gaining and becoming a better leader.

Evan Carroll said...

I'm having a hard time parsing this and following your logic.

Bob Miller said...

In my opinion. Absolutes and Cardinal Rules do apply but are limiting. They aren't the only way to be a leader. People are diverse and there are many paths to being a good leader or a relevant leader. Some stay in one Company, some in one Role and others move and change Companies and Roles with ease.
I liked the bucket of water analogy. I try to make sure that when my hand is in the bucket I am influencing the waters flow and that people know its my hand.

Martin Klinzing said...

You know you've done your job as a leaders when the performance of your team improves when you are not around. Becoming redumdent is a goal to be achieved, developing and grooming your team is the highest priority. They are the indiviualds actually responsible to perform the work, your job is to enable them to succeed.

R J Hall said...

Kind of sounds like servant leadership to me. Help your team flourish while helping your boss look good. I'm not sure totally about the idea of being redundant...not if you're an integral member of the team, but I do think that the way you are successful is by helping those around you become successful.

William F (Bill) Kane said...

John
I agree with your positon that it was my role as the leader to develop the people and improve the systems and processes to the point that the I was no longer needed.

For it was also time for me to move on the next challenge, which is the energy source of my own motivation

Brian Kelly said...

A long time ago, a VP summoned me up to his office after I'd been on vacation for a week. He ripped me in half, burned my remains, and then did real damage. He was irate because my operation had performed so badly while I was on vacation. He asked if I like the position I had with that company. When I said I did, he responded, "Great, because you'll be in it for the next 35 years and retire from it without chance of transfer or promotion!"

His point was that the operation of an effective manager shouldn't run successfully BECAUSE he or she is present and directly involved on a high profile basis, it should run because he's identified and implemented appropriate process, to include people and all other resources. It should never fail because the manager isn't present. If in fact it does fail due to the absence of its manager... then rather than it being a good thing that the manager makes such great decisions on the job, its a bad thing that he has not implemented processes and coached people so that the operation runs well because the operation is well run!

Ada Gonzalez said...

Agree that best leaders delegate and prepare others so well that things run smoothly without him/her. Which yes, means working yourself out of a job. But not necessarily. . . . The inspiration, empowerment, example, and communication skills you exhibit doing this might be what keeps things running so smoothly and why you are needed as a leader.

Mike Owen said...

Whilst I agree that it is important to continually move forward and not "live in fear" of the consequences of filling the void behind you, I am not sure if you need to create a replacement. My experience is that it is far more important to invite talented individuals who have the necessary drive, self confidence and emotional intelligence ito your organisation, and then mentor, challenge and support them to enable each to be the best they can be. The tasks and responsibilities that you have left behind will be naturally assumed (as that is what motivated people do) by one or more, and in turn they will progressively move up or out of the organisation. Whilst it is important to retain exceptionally talented performers where possible, fresh and exciting challenges cannot always be presented, so it is more important for the individual and your industry to assist them, and leave the door open to return at a later stage if appropriate.

Rand MacIvor said...

And may I add: there are also so many leaders that have been so afraid to hire people that are better than they are, lest they are "shown up". True leaders hire the best they can, set up systems and operations to empower individuals under them to perform to the best of their abilities and to satisfy cerrtain client needs on their own, and step back to monitor, guide when needed, encourage constantly, and celebrate when it is appropriate. And yes, I'm an old TQM disciple....

Brian Kelly said...

Ada, where the heck have you been? This place just isn't worth a darn when you're not around!

Clayton Berry said...

I have always believed in that model, but also from a process / implementation perspective, not just people. Quite often you find good companies with good people, but poor / non-existent processes (mostly ad-hoc, firefighting work). The goal then is to create / improve processes, then semi-automate them, such that you are no longer spending most of your time doing the grunt work and / or re-inventing the wheel every time. However, by nature then, you’ve worked yourself out of a job. Though the point aligns as John stated, by showing your value and moving to the next assignment within the company (up or lateral).

I have seen this at both levels (individual contributor and manager) and have done this myself, some with successful endings, some not. But even with unsuccessful examples in mind, I believe this is the correct approach theoretically because this person is saying, “I want to be more involved, accomplish more important things, and make the people and company around me better as a result, even at a personal risk.”

Gary Klow said...

One sign of a good leader is that he/she is not afraid to surround themself with highly competent people. That leader then has the responsibility to nurture, mentor and motivate those individuals with potential for growth. It is not necessary to train your replacement, for those that are ready for more responsibility should find opportunity within the organization, not necessariliy within the department.
This should provide a line of people who will rise to levels of responsibility within the company to whom you have an established relationship. Then, when you are ready for promotion, the selection for your replacement extends beyond your own department (though the person could come from there) to any of those you have developed.

Anonymous said...

John,
A leader can confidently leave behind self-sustaining operations, or as in my most in my recent experience, leave behind an 18 - 24 month roadmap to follow. In most cases that is adequate. Succession planning requires identifying and training a competent leader capable of sustaining, not training another leader capable of re-engineering or restructuring to the betterment of what was already created. Sustaining includes continual process improvement (CPI) but CPI must not be confused with the aptitude it takes to create new, or re-engineer disparate, operations. A leader does not become redundant rather enables operations to sustain without him/her. Trust this is very close to home for me.

Dan de la Cruz said...

I'm in absolute agreement, leaders must have the unit working whether or not they're there. I thought I have done it twice (I don't want to say it loud because my boss might be listening), but it's his job that I want, it's something better than his. It's also about the people in your team who have ambitions and must be nurtured, leaders cannot forget this part as most of us, if not all, have been in their spot before. Their development has been as much as mine, I grow because they have grown and I hope that it's their achievements that will push me up, I thought it would be a great complement.

Daniel Martin said...

A sign of a good leader is one that hires qualified workers, provides clear objectives, freedom to get the job done, and challenges each individual within the team.

Doing more with less is the norm. Providing a roadmap for your team and organization is the challenge. If it leads to a promotion, new opportunity, or other challenges, that is what I look forward too.

We have a diverse community, skills and talents. As a believer in life long learning, change is expected. We need to embrace technology, equipment, tools and methods to the benefit of the organization, associates and customers.

Frederic GOMER said...

When I started my career, I worked for an exceptional manager...one thing I remember that he told me, was :"Fred I only hire smarter and more competent people than me...", firstly I took it as a compliment...yes I was young...and then later on, I fully understood the meaning when I was in the same position to hire people...he left the company before I did but I am still referring to him as a mentor. I think that this illustrates the difference between a manager and a leader...

Ada Gonzalez said...

Talking about human capital and leadership, just read on the Washington Post an interesting article about How the Recession Is Changing Talent Management. Take a look: http://tr.im/qyuH

Howard R. Berger said...

I think I could handle being redundant just so long as I wasn't repeating myself...

Chris Hayes said...

Argument seems consistent with a leaders true role: set direction, remove obstacles and get out of the way !!!

martin hogan said...

Hi John, any good employee is always expendable, the idea that everything depends upon the presence of one person is very dangerous. A mangers job is geared toward making sure that everyone else knows how to do and has the tools to do their work, so in that respect they can be considered redundant but you also need to find a replacement should they leave and that is not always easy.

regards

Grzegorz Starybrat said...

Definitely not, because it would mean that organization would become solid and self-propelled, but unchanged. Besides of the goals you mentioned the role of the leader is to keep organization changing and transforming and this is continuous process, it never ends. Without those changes organization would perform well to its own definition but comparing to external world its performance would deteriorate. So the role of the leader is not only lead, develop but also envision future and what organization should be at that time and steer into this direction.

JohnEric Leach said...

I'd advocate that senior management positions typically command a sufficiently high "exit" renumeration . This renumeration can be sufficient to sustain the individual for sometime before re-employment becomes necessary. From experience, depending on pedigree and location, it appears there are enough opportunities in the market for talented management. I'd propose two additional factors in your suggestion regarding redundancy. The first is the development of entrepreneurs - I believe there are many talented and capable individuals who never persue an ambition for starting up a business because both family and financial commitments make it next to impossible to imagine giving up a monthly salary. Does redundancy propel people towards realising independence? My second comment refers to a book written by Charles Handy - "The Elephant and the Flea". Charles Handy has been both revered and dismissed as a business guru for the last twenty years as a result of his socio-capitalistic views on corporations. In the Elephant and the Flea, Handy refers to a change in the business environment where there is room for individual (or small businesses) the "Fleas" to service the larger corporations, "The Elephants". In his book, Handy, also refers to the factors preventing people from becoming "Fleas" and suggests that redundancy can be a motivational factor in realising that potential. I don't do justice to the book here but I would suggest people read the book which is highly appropriate in the current economic crisis.

Bob Mountain said...

John
I tend to agree that a healthy approach to career development is indeed to aim for redundancy, butwhether actual or virtual is the key point! It is a risky strategy, but one that works well if the company's culture and commercial position allow it - in the current climate it feels far more risky, and there will inevitably be more leaders taking a 'conservative' approach to securing their position.

In my experience, it is always beneficial recruiting the best person you can get, and ideally someone who is more competent than you are! While this sounds uncomfortable (and it can be), if managed well it also sharpens your own drive and competence, as well as improving the performance of your business area.
Developing these staff into a position where they are taking on more and more of your operational activities then allows you to move on to other areas.

As touched on at the start, I guess that this approach does need to have a supportive and trusting corporate culture to be successful. Otherwise a truly flexible attitude towards job security, and the oppotunities offered by changing employer.....

Is summary I would recommend it!

Ramon Kirk said...

Hi John
I believe the key is that if you are a leader you will always be a leader of people, as they will gravitate towards you and rely on your skills to make decissions.
So the ones that might espire to get your job are the ones that are trying to prove themselves worhty of that position, only perhaps to find it a lonley place when they have got there, as the thought of being there is very different from actually being a leader.
If you are at the top it poses a problem too, as you have reached the place you wanted to be...and you know what, you are comfortable for a while, but in truth there is always something that drives you on and makes you look over your shoulder.
As a leader you will understand that as you have not lost your instinct and perhaps want more...but what might it be?
Did you aspire to get the job you are in once? If you did you have reached your goal! So proves a point you just need reason and direction.
Well my thoughts for you in the morning. You are not redundant, just need a purpose.You are always welcome to have a chat,I would kick your business in touch in a nice way and you remain the leader! My door is always open and I am not giving up! Regards Ramon
Ramon Kirk Director and Leader!!!

Barry Dennis said...

I completely agree with the concept that it is the leaders role to become redundant. If the leader does not make himself redundant how can his staff ever hope to progress to the position tha the now holds? Would you, as an ambitious employee, really want to remain in a company where you did not have the opportunity to get your bosses job? At the end of the day if you make yourself redundant and the company does not recognise this and give yo ua greater challenge then it is a poor company to work for, with poor leadership and you are better off developing your career elsewhere anyway.

Paul Niskanen said...

John: Like most leadership concepts, the one you describe has elements of truth. If if didn't, it would not have survived as long as it has. This redundancy concept was being discussed when I was in my first engineering job. But, like so many concepts I have read about or heard touted over the years, I am convinced that one size does not fit all. Quite a few leaders are right where they should be, are effective there, and are happy. Formula approaches often end in disaster for individuals and their organizations. Further, I believe that if learning stops, it is more a function of the student then the job he is in.

Paul Niskanen

Fred Nickols said...

I learned to work myself out of a job while a chief petty officer in the United States Navy. Redundancy there was key to ensuring that the loss of this or that individual left no holes in the capability of the group. Any base could be covered by at least two and maybe three or four people. That carried forward into my civilian career. The way I put it once is as follows: "People like to brag about how much is on their plate. I like to brag about how my plate is empty. It's all been moved to my peoples' plates." The aim was for them to be able to carry on without me. My peers and superiors hated it; my people loved it.

Jim Kennedy said...

Has redundancy seeped into some organizations due to inaction due to restraints or fears brought by current economic conditions?

Jeff said...

John, I have an urgent need an was hoping to network through some members of the defense & aerospace group. Could I float the description by you to see who you may know? Please provide your email. Appreciate any help.
Thanks,
Jeff

Jim Kaya said...

I agree with the concept that a leader's primary focus " is on recruiting and developing people to be more capable and competent than yourself". I have embraced that concept throughout my career. The feeling of working myself out of a job has always been with me. I have turned it into paranoia and use that to drive myself even harder. The point at which I run out of steam has not occurred yet...however I do seem to change jobs frequently!
This concept works well with hiring individuals that fill in your weaknesses. If I am good at cold calling but poor at lead follow up, why not hire the strongest person to backfill my weak areas? I do not agree with the word redundant. Our skills and abilities are as different as personalities. Often times our personalities add or detract from our skill set.
Thanks for this discussion. It made me think!

Charles Stickels said...

I have said this for years and people have looked at me like I was from Mars. The proudest moment in my career was when I was laid off because my 4 person direct report management team did not need me anymore. I thought that really said something about the team I had built and the mentoring I had done. The company was very generous with the redundancy package and I was working again in 3 weeks (no harm no foul…). I think the people who are objecting here are scared because this flies in the face of the job security mentality that has been ingrained in us. People who are good leaders will always be able to find work. I have just started a new job and it is my goal to build a class A team here in the next 3-5 years. I tell people that is what I do, recruit people who are good clay and mold them into problem solvers and leaders.

John Leonard said...

In my opinion, if a leader becomes redundant, then they have failed in one of the basic requirements of a great leader...growth. Leadership is a journey of a lifetime and I don't believe that you have to change positions or careers to keep a journey moving forward. Personal growth is essential. If a leader continues to expand his knowledge, broaden his/her horizons, and become more aware of both self and others, then the leader will always be able to provide a model for others to follow.

That being said, I do believe in some of what the article speaks to. A good leader is always looking for people who are smarter, better, or more experienced than they are. It is not the responsibility of the leader to be the smartest person in the room, it is their duty to bring those people together in a unified force for the good of the organization and the fellow associates.

Eamonn Phillipson said...

Hi John,

I "Managed" to make myself redundant once and was actually quite happy to go - a need for new challenges which were not available in my then employer's org.

The other way to look at this might be -

It is natural evolution. How did you rise from a "simple, transaction focused buyer" to the heights of VP?

A good manager supports the development of a great team. It is possible, or even probable, that the individual team members may have specialist knowledge/skills superior to the competence level of the manager in their given specialisations. They may just be plain smarter too!

So ambitious people will want to extend their experience in to Leadership.

My feeling is that, as Leaders ourselves, we would be in dereliction of our duties and moral obligations not to encourage the brightest and best to rise as high as possible. Apart from anything else, how can you otherwise organise succession planning?

If we don't give our staff a "route to the top", they will just leave and continue their careers elsewhere, wasting all the time and money that we/our company has put into their growth and forcing us to spend many more thousands recruiting and training someone else.

Am I too altruistic? Probably. But I just love working with great people!

Eric Myers said...

A leader is DEFINED by the people he/she chooses to surround themself with.

If you have a killer team, you are a killer leader.

Make no mistake though, a leader is an enabler. An individual's strength and career is theirs alone to drive.

One of my best questions as a headhunter goes like this: Who is the weakest link in your chain? The answers are always entertaining, but guess what? If you don't know instantly who the weakest link is.....it's you.

Best,
Eric

Anthony A. Oliver said...

"Lead more and manage less" has always been a great mantra to follow. Developing people to exceed their roles and allowing them to grow through leadership will make a manager redundant but a leader will always be there to guide and mentor the progress and direction of the organization. The ability to adapt to the changes the leader has "created" will allow him/her to find the "time" to develop other opportunities that he now can pass on to his competent staff. The veritable cycle continues, the organization grows.

Brian Kelly said...

"I want to be redundant"... this thought is NOT directed at one's leadership... it is directed at one's present position. The desire to be redundant through one's great and effective leadership enables the unit to grow and continue to succeed, while also enabling oneself to grow into another position and more challenges... while still of course and absolutely retaining one's leadership skills and abilities... after all, you'll need them for your next great new assignment!

Brian Kelly

Ryan F Perrin said...

Not sure I agree that it is a leadership role. While I am certain many leaders are driving in this direction, I don't think it is a defining characteristic.
I would agree that any individual who is working to move forward within their own organization (leader or otherwise) needs to consider the vacuum they would create when they leave. If you are indispensible in your current position, it is unlikely you will get moved to another position. I have always operated under the principle that one of my primary functions is develop an operating system that will function without me. If I cannot do that, I will never move on to my next adventure.

Glenn Rowe said...

John and Fred,

Simply put, "RIGHT ON!"

I believe that one of a leader's key roles is to grow and develop his/her own replacement(s), true, but I don't think success in that arena makes the leader redundant.

As we all know, any untended organization, process or person will begin to change/move in the direction of self-interest, so the "redundant" leader essentially becomes the caretaker of both people and processes -- tweaking here, mending there, adding or replacing things, occasionally putting his/her paddle in the water just-so and removing it the moment everything is back on course.

Or something like that...
-- Glenn

Patrick J. Banks, Ph.D. said...

John –

After many years as an executive coach and developing leaders, one of the primary things I work with them is to become dispensable in their jobs. Many, many leaders I worked with had become way too indispensable to their function. Bad maneuver, since they were almost guaranteeing they may not move up or even sideways in the organization at large, unless an unplanned contingency dictated it. They likely wouldn’t be promoted, wouldn’t have new projects to challenge them, wouldn’t be reassigned to expand their knowledge and experience base, etc.

Too often, many leaders fear that their departure from their post will result in diminished performance or results; or at best, unpredictability in execution and results. If they didn’t get their organization ready for their departure, their fears may be justified.

One crucial element of a Leader’s job is developing, inspiring, and enabling those who depend on the Leader to assume more and more responsibility, until they can function without the Leader at a tactical level. Yet, many don’t do it for fear that if their people don’t need them, neither does the organization. This is false in most cases. The immediate payoff to becoming “redundant” is time gained - time to immerse oneself in the strategic elements of the job and invent the future. This is something the organization will always need – strategic visioning and thinking.
It seems risky when there is a history of organizations reacting the wrong way when an operational unit that is doing well is operating relatively autonomously of their leader. From many analyses of cultures over the years, organizations that concentrate disproportionately on the dollar value of its people will see an opportunity to save a cost instead of replicating the gains. In these types of organizations, vulnerability is real. One even has to wonder if one wants to work in a place where if you do the right thing, it’ll be punished.
The Leader’s choice can simplistically be, do I safeguard my job by becoming the hub of knowledge, or do I do what’s right and treat people like adults, help them develop their understanding of the business and our role in it (business literacy), facilitate their transition to a new way of working together, and enable them to run with it?
If one is compelled to become indispensable, then one should become vital to the organization, not the job, by multiplying one’s efforts. Executives we have worked with who do this have moved rather quickly through the ranks. The basis for future promotions becomes their ability to replicate themselves (and the results they’ve delivered) and leave behind something better. In that sense, redundancy is very OK.

Pat

Alex Kersha said...

John,
Great post, thank you.

My one wish for the genie would be that every politician in our current government would learn a valuable lesson from this very important post. Rather than chasing each other's tails trying to figure out how to prolong their stay in government office, each one of them should be looking for ways to move on and let the next generation take over.

Don Wussler said...

True leaders do not make themselves "redundant". The leader, regardless of how long he or she has been in his position, is contributing something unique, something no one else in the organization has. If you are not, then you have in fact been in your job too long.

That's different from being "irreplaceable". I would posit that very few, if any, people are irreplaceable. I notice that Steve Jobs is back at Apple, at least part time. Is he one of the exceptions? Maybe. But in my 26 years in the Air Force, I've seen leaders come and go (including me) and the units they (and I) leave somehow manage to click on.

Look at the country--we change presidents every 4-8 years. Ignore political affiliations for at least 60 seconds. I don't believe Presidents have been redundant, by and large. But even FDR wasn't irrecplaceable after 3+ terms. Good thing, huh?

Keep using your unique skill set every day to make your people and your organization better. There will always be new people and new challenges aplenty on which to imprint your non-redundancy. But know that you'll leave eventually, either up or out. Make your mark while you're able.

Happy Independence Day! GBA!

Frank Santos said...

John.

I don't believe redundant is the right word for that situation. It is a leader's responsibility to train/coach/develop those around him to succeed at the next level. I always felt I had succeeded at this when I could step off the flightline and trust my expeditors to handle any emergencies that may come up or leave the Maintenance Operations Center and trust my senior controller to coordinate/brief our wing or group commander on any situation. Being able to trust your people is a big factor in enabling them to grow. This makes your organization stronger and better able to manage personnel losses.

Have a great 4th of July!

Ravindra Kumar Singh said...

It is the most honest statement. I always used to say that my prime job and every day when I get up in the morning the first thing I think about is "How I am going to kill my job." You can not do new things unless you move on and the best thing is to find out ways how you are going to make your job redundant. I thought I had done it but after some time of my leaving the things went back to the way they were before. Sad but true. Probably people are afraid to change, afraid to loose their job, positon, prestige, power and what not, but sadly it is true. Even when I am advising people, companies I try to make sure that they learn and practise enough so that I am not required for the same situations again.

Linda McNeil said...

I was thinking the same thoughts, being "redundant", I believe, is not the best word choice, but perhaps "succession planning" is what is meant. Being an influencer and a leader means that as your skills grow and the company/agency grows, then those around you should grow with you. I don't believe that anybody is irreplaceable, or should be. As a leader, this should be understood as an objective or goal for the position. To groom others to be able to build a synergetic arena would be a healthy approach. Yes, we all have unique skill sets, but transferring our knowledge and skills to others makes us better. . . it is a little more risky, but in the long run build longevity and overall health in a department.

Janice Coleman said...

Hello John,

These are all awesome and compelling thoughts.

I believe that the ability to embrace the thought of making yourself 'redundant' rests on more than a few variables. If a person finds themself in an organization where trust and integrity are an issue, they will never be able to comfortably consider the authentic cultivation of talent. They will be too busy "looking over their shoulder/watching their back". The corporate culture must lend itself to the idea that fueling another capacity to perform at a greater level is indeed welcomed and appreciated.

If a leader is given to the philosophy that "I will give my all and pour into the professional lives of those for whom I am responsilble", that leader must in like manner take on the attitude/backbone that can absorb the benefits/ reprecussions of said philosophy.

Finding a workable balance with regard to this is both an art an a science practiced by the elite of leaders...

All the best,


Janice Coleman

Richard J. Grosso said...

I absolutely agree with you. Once you have begun the serious enhancement of the abilities of your direct reports you have the time to begin investigating new arenas for you own development. Having trained and encouraged your folk to be able to make things happen without your daily involvement provides an opportunity for your top management to bless a foray of yours into new territory perhaps sucessful, perhaps not, but one can learn from either scenario. I have been so blessed and several occasions and won more than lost.

Never be afraid to develop your staff to the point if it being capable of functioning very effectively without your involvement. If you never achieve that state then how can you expect opportunities for yourself to move on to bigger and better things?

Of course, if you want to live and die doing the same things, day in and day out, well then ignore the advice of those of us who want to grow and achieve greater heights in our careers. Actually, heed this advice, please get out of our way!.

Megan Cummings-Krueger said...

I agree, this is an excellent discussion. I would add that it's all how you frame it. To Janice's point, that begins with the corporate culture. If the culture encourages and rewards the transfer of information, and recognizes the unique value leaders can bring to this process, then a high performing, collaborative community is born. I think Pat's observation that you need to reframe the concept of 'being vital to the job' into 'being vital to the organization' hits the nail on the head.

It's also going to be interesting to watch how this issue evolves with the generational shift that is occuring in the corporate culture. There have been a lot of observations made about the fact that the latest generation (immersed in a wikipedia-world) places a much greater value on transparency and the sharing of information. Interesting times...

Marisa Narula said...

I agree with all the above comments as they all make a very valid point. The mind set of the corporate culture is extremely important. I have worked in companies where this "fear of being redundant" was instilled into us sub consciously. And when I encountered quite the contrary in the next job - my boss actually said to me in an evaluation discussion with me that "I will consider you an outstanding employee when work continues flowing and takes care of itself when you are on vacation and/or away for some reason.". That truly flabbergasted me at that time. But I now incorporate the same standard with my own staff and tell them that if I can locate documents, if I can continue the work effortlessly while they are away, then I know they have done an excellent job. And I refuse to instill the "fear of being redundant" into my employees. It does not help them be productive at all. And as Alex Kersha said ' - this should apply to politics as well. Many Asian countries do not respect the younger generation and will not "let go" of their jobs to let this new group of "new minded" people. How can we change the world, our workplaces, and move forward if we are not willing to "let go"? The most successful people are those who trust, who delegate and who believe in their people. Great discussion.

Frederick Guyton said...

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