What You Must Surrender to Lead Best



When you think about surrender, you don’t likely think of great leadership. People who surrender, lose, right?

The dictionary tells us that surrender, as a verb, means things like: “to yield possession or power,” “to give (oneself) up,” “to give up, abandon or relinquish.” These are hardly the ideas we connect with leaders we aspire to emulate.

Or it is?

Yet, in order to lead effectively, whether on the shop floor, the cube farm or anywhere else, there are things the best leaders can and do surrender. And when you surrender these same things, you will accelerate your influence and effectiveness as a leader.

Great Leaders surrender . . .

. . . the need to be right. The best leaders know that the goal is for the group to get to best result. It doesn’t have to be their idea, and in fact, even if it is, it will be more effective when the group feels they own it. They also know that an “I told you so,” is never a valuable part of a coaching conversation.

. . . the need to speak first. The best leaders know they will, in many situations, achieve more and get better results if they shut up. They let their teams talk, discuss and explore. They know that when they start talking they might inhibit the ideas and input from the team. So they remain quiet and wait.

. . . the need to decide. Yes, there is a time for leaders to make decisions, but it isn’t all the time. Often, when leaders let go of their need to decide, others will make the same decision, if not a better one.

. . . the need for credit. This is related to the need to be right, but adds an additional component. Leaders who usurp all the credit for the success of their team won’t have the support of their team very long.

. . . the need for control. Often people aspire to leadership roles precisely because they want to have control. Yet how many micro managers and control-mongers do you want to follow?

Do you notice how all of these are framed as needs? Because we see them as needs, surrendering them feels like such a loss. But are they truly needs, or just strong wants? And while you may want these things (a lot), you likely want some other things too.

Do you want? . . .

. . . greater results. The best leaders lead because they know they can’t do it alone. They want their team to hit their targets, make progress and have success.

. . . greater influence. Different than power, influence is granted by others, when they choose to listen, to follow and to change.

. . . greater satisfaction. Who doesn’t want greater satisfaction from their work? Great leaders get great satisfaction from the growth of their team members in both skills and confidence. They know they didn’t do it for them, but they get a deep satisfaction for their contribution.

. . . greater significance. Great leaders want to make a difference, leave a legacy and make things better. Few things feel better than knowing you have truly made a difference.

Great leaders want these things. Highly effective human beings want these things. And if you want the last four things, you must surrender the first five.

If you agree that the last four are more meaningful and important, it will be easier (though not necessarily easy) to let go of, abandon, or surrender the first five. Think of the last four as the reason to let go.

When you see this – you have a glimpse of the great leader you can become.

What will you let go of, what will you surrender today?

photo credit it’sGreg


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  1. Marcia Norman says

    Kevin, what an unbelievably powerful post.
    Though I might have thought one or other intuitively, to see it laid out so brilliantly it sure strengthens the earnings to improve our lederships.
    Great post!!!

  2. says

    Counterintuitive… surrender and leadership don’t sound like they belong in the same sentence. But you have just smashed that notion to smithereens. Great article, wonderful insights. These I will employ in my own personal life as well as career. Thank you Kevin. Spreading the cheer on “Lead by choice” [Leadership & surrender http://t.co/vFfhusQP and Twitter :)

    Best regards,

  3. Carl Smith says


    Wow what a fantastic message and truth about effective leadership. It really does reinforce the importance of a person’s intention. Sounds familar, right?!

    Thank you for not just writing about the principle, but practicing what you mention in this posting. This just one reason why you are Remarkable to me.

    Keep on encouraging and influencing people to grow and be better…to be that much more remarkable!

    All the best for you Kevin!

    Carl Smith


  1. […] Greet Box WordPress PluginAs a leader, we must be willing to let go of lots of things. Just Monday, I wrote about this idea of surrender.  Consider this a companion to that post – perhaps a more practical […]

  2. […] What You Must Surrender To Lead Best  This is from Kevin Eikenberry and his Leadership & Learning blog.  I have been reading Kevin for some time now-but this is the 1st time I have featured him in 5 for Leadership.  This is a good post on what you must give up in order to gain what you really want. […]

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