Lead, Follow or Give Way: 4 Questions To Help You Balance Leading versus Doing

To Be or Not to Be…

Lately, I have found myself on the road a lot. It’s always interesting for me to make mental shifts between “doing the work” and “leading the work.” As much as I enjoy being part of a detail, there is great pleasure in watching the team sort out the complexities of a particular job. It’s also strangely odd to be there but not be part of the main mix, itself. As a leader, you may have experienced this strange sensation; if you have…it’s okay. What this really means is that your people are growing, learning and scaling to meet the challenges the industry is throwing at them, and you have done well guiding them along the way. Your job now is to figure out when you need to be “on the job” versus mentoring, managing, and providing cover for the team or working “on the business.”

Completely dislodging yourself from the process isn’t wise as the industry is constantly evolving via innovative ideas, technologies and risk vectors. So, if you are so disenfranchised from the work that you no longer recognize it, you run the risk of becoming an agent-of-stagnation. Subsequently, if you find yourself on every detail, always leading from the very tip of the spear, burning the midnight oil to ensure all the back-of-house functions are done, while attempting to field phone calls between movements, etc. you are hampering your team’s (and your) ability to grow. Knowing when to be that person and when not to be is the sweet spot for a leader.


“If the scale of our lives didn’t have one side of reason (thoughts) to balance another side of feelings, the blood and plain body of the way we are would bring us to very strange effects.”

~ William Shakespeare


To Thine Own Self…

Developing thresholds for when you should be involved and when to step back is an important part of the art here. Start by taking a real look at your own bandwidth. Are you where you want to be in terms of your operation, education, training, etc.? If you are a business owner, are you seeing your clients in a venue other than during a detail? If you’re working in a Corporation, do you have time for strategy development or 1-1s? Either way, how is your work-life balance?

Ask yourself the following, to get an idea if it’s right for you to do, or to delegate to the troops:

    • Can I do this?
    • Should I do this?
    • Can someone else do it?
    • If me, then where am I best suited?

The key point here is the second bullet. Should is defined by your operational parameters and scale. Obviously, there are situations when you are a one-person-show. Aside from operations, there is an ancillary effect to asking these questions of administrative tasks, too. Any fan of Tim Ferris or many of the other new gurus of the life-hacking movement out there would tell you, there is something to outsourcing and looking at news ways to use technology and services to create space and time for you to focus your energy.

Mostly, setting your parameters should be based on issues involving risk, exposure and operational complexities. When the issue meets your threshold, now is the time to decide where you are best placed to help with the success of the mission. Should you be in the “front right,” on the advance or part of the immediate support? Developing a few courses of action to gameplay where you will best fit into the mix will set the team for success.

Let’s be clear…. Leaders need to lead. You need to get out there, you need to be involved because it won’t happen from your office or your desk. But knowing when to lead, when to mentor and when to let the team venture solo will help you and them to get to the next level.


Good luck and keep your head down!

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About Chuck Randolph

Security Leader and Strategic Thinker. I'm focused on driving new ideas and keeping positive momentum in the industry out there. I'm a world traveler and adventurer. Join in and keep the conversation going.

3 responses to “Lead, Follow or Give Way: 4 Questions To Help You Balance Leading versus Doing”

  1. Ray O'Hara says :

    Well done Chuck. See you soon.

  2. Mike Howard says :

    Excellent points Chuck. Enjoyed reading this!

  3. Al Ornoski says :

    Great thoughts Chuck.

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