Dear Leaders

A weekly letter with actionable leadership ideas.

Feeling Threatened by your Subordinate’s Rapid Ascent? Stop It.

By Hamza Shayk

Dear Leaders,

Fun fact: If you’re good at your job, your employer does not want to replace you. It’s just not in their best interest.

Why?

Because they need the job done well and it’s extremely difficult to find a good replacement.

A fact that’s even more fun:  If you’re excellent at your job, you’ll have to royally screw up in order to be replaced. Even then, your employer will likely go to great lengths to make it work with you instead of replacing you.

Why?

Because chances of them finding someone of the same caliber as you are as slim as falling in love with the right person, them feeling the same way about you, it not working out, and then instantly finding that same connection with someone else.

Good luck with those odds.

Sure, it’s hard to swallow if and when your subordinate outshines you. All sorts of feelings from insecurity, fear of loss of control, perceived competition, and change in power dynamics start appearing real.

Entertain those and soon you’re feeling bitter, resentful, envious, and a host of other negative and destructive emotions.

Thinking of acting on those by undermining your subordinates and hindering their progress? Consider this:

1. That doesn’t ensure your progress, it just reveals to everyone around you that you’re capable of operating in this manner and will do if it comes down to it. Remember the crucial, foundational element of “trust” in order for any leader to be effective? Yea, that’s gone. No more being effective for you.

2. It’ll lead to reduced collaboration all around, hindering open communication within the team and, depending on how senior of a role you’re in, within the organization.

3. As soon as your subordinates sense that their talents are viewed as a threat, it’ll deflate morale and their productivity with it. If you think them being less productive will make you look good in comparison, think again.

4. Worst of all, you get to look at yourself in the mirror every day. Or rather, you can’t stand looking at yourself in the mirror. Maybe you can live with it once, but operate this way consistently and you can kiss your senior leadership dreams goodbye – along with any peace of mind, integrity, and respect for yourself. And if, somehow, despite this behavior, you still end up making it to the top, well, everyone, including you, will still know how you got there. You’ll have status without trust or respect.

Why am I being so serious about this? Because you’re not only damaging your own career but also someone else’s. Someone who’s relying on you to guide and support their livelihood. It’s deception at its worst.

I increasingly come across this problem, and I firmly believe it’s the kind of issue that serves as a poison pill to a vibrant and productive organizational culture. It ultimately renders organizations irrelevant or, in the worst case, bankrupts them. Hard working and talented individuals leave, while bitter ones get to stay and enjoy each other’s company. Competitors win.

What to Do Instead?

Your most optimal strategy is to remain committed to enhancing your own skills, cultivating a strong work ethic, and embodying kindness, respect, and generosity as a boss or peer.

Encourage the growth of others and provide them with the support they need to maximize their potential. That will result in substantial dividends over the course of your long, fulfilling, and influential career.

That, after all, is the true essence of leadership.

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